Rudolph the Chicago Reindeer

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Rudolph in Chicago

You may know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, but did you know that everyone’s favorite red-nosed reindeer got his start in the Windy City?

In 1939, Robert May, a copywriter for the-then Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department store chain, received an assignment to create an animal-based story that the company would send to its customers for the holidays. He penned a tale about a reindeer, an animal already associated with Christmas. However, his boss rejected his story of the red-nosed animal. May stayed at it and eventually convinced his superior to embrace the story, though the character remained nameless. He tried out a couple of “R” names, including Rollo and Reginald, before finally deciding on Rudolph.

Ten years later, songwriter Johnny Marks put the story to a tune, made most popular by singing cowboy Gene Autry, and the rest is history. Autry’s and other versions of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” including the 1964 stop-motion animation TV special, continue to delight children and adults alike every holiday season in Chicago and beyond.

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