Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Though the catalog industry is long dead, the legend of one of the most beloved childhood holiday characters isn't. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer each year around this time makes appearances around the world, yet nobody really knows his hometown. Over on Chicago Ave in Groupon's HQ, Montgomery Ward once hocked some of the nations most popular dry goods.
It was here, a man by the name of Robert L. May worked as part of the in-house advertising copywriting team. In early 1939, it was the idea that instead of giving away coloring books in their catalogs every Christmas, they would make their own Christmas book for customers that featured an animal. Robert's daughter, Barbara was infatuated with the deer at the Lincoln Park Zoo, so (obviously) the main character had to be a deer. For a heartfelt plot line, Robert drew upon his own shy childhood memories and the sorrows that came with the death of his wife that summer.
In August that year, the book had been finished and 2.4 million copies were sent out to Montgomery Ward's customers. The book took a 6-year hiatus because of paper restrictions due to the war, but was well-recieved by children again in late 1946 when 3.6 million copies were sent out with the holiday catalog.
· Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer [Wikipedia]