Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

As the snowflakes swirl and the winter holidays approach, do any of your family traditions include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Did you know that Rudolph was almost named Rollo–or even Reginald?

Sales brochure for Montgomery Ward store associates, advising employees on how to increase their holiday selling power.  Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3.  American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Sales brochure for Montgomery Ward store associates, advising employees on how to increase their holiday selling power. Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Montgomery Ward, the world’s first general merchandise mail-order business, originated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as an advertising campaign in 1939. Copywriter Robert L. May drafted a poem about a reindeer with a shiny red nose that that would assist Santa Claus in his deliveries, and 2.4 million copies of his illustrated poem were distributed for free to Montgomery Ward shoppers.

Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3.  American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In the 1940s, the hard-bound book was released, and a song composed about the reindeer written by Johnny Marks was recorded by singing cowboy Gene Autry.  By the time the familiar television special premiered in 1964, Rudolph’s likeness had been licensed for more than 500 items.

First pages of the illustrated poem by Robert May. Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3.  American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

First pages of the illustrated poem by Robert May. Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

You gotta admit, Rudolph is looking pretty good after 73 years!

The poem continues with Rudolph's self-consciousness . . . Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3.  American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The poem continues with Rudolph’s self-consciousness . . . Montgomery Ward records, Collection # 8088, Box 44, Folder 3. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Happy Holidays from the Collections of the AHC!

The American Heritage Center is the repository for more than 300 boxes of records from Montgomery Ward Company, 1860-1993.  In addition materials documenting the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer campaign, the collection contains Montgomery Ward catalogs, competitors’ catalogs,  correspondence (1889-1985) including approximately 20,000 letters between the general public and Ward regarding the National War Labor Board and the 1944 government seizures; scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine articles on Ward and competitors (1971-1987) including extensive national press coverage of the 1944 seizures. Subject files (1862-1985) include information on takeover attempts, price controls, A. Montgomery Ward’s role in preserving Chicago’s lake front, company history, the National War Labor Board, and miscellaneous artifacts.

–Ginny Kilander, Reference Department Head

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