December 15, 2014

Rudolph’s True Story Began In Chicago

Naperville, Do You Know The True Story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

That magical day is almost here. A time to share with friends and family. A time of traditions and stories. Do you sometimes find yourself wondering how certain traditions or stories evolved? Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is one of those stories and songs that we all grew up with, but few know the story behind the story. It was written by a man named Bob May. In 1939, Bob was depressed and brokenhearted, as his wife Evelyn was dying of cancer. Bob’s four year old daughter Barbara didn’t understand why her mommy could never come home.



Life had always been tough for Bob. As a child, he was often a misfit, and never really felt like he belonged. His marriage to Evelyn had been the highlight of his life, then he was blessed with his little girl, but it was short lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings. Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died in July of 1939.

At the time, Bob was a copywriter for Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. In early 1939, May’s boss at Montgomery Ward had asked him to write a “cheery” Christmas book for shoppers and suggested that an animal be the star of the book.   In July, his boss offered to take him off the book assignment in light of his wife’s death. May refused and completed the poem in August, 1939. Bob had created an animal character in his own mind. He told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort, and hope during this heartbreaking time for the child.

The animal he chose was the deer, which was Barbara’s favorite animal at the Chicago Park Zoo. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book in August of 1939. The Rudolph poem booklet was first distributed during the 1939 holiday season. Shoppers loved the poem and 2.4 million copies were distributed. War time restrictions on paper use prevented a re-issue until 1946. In that year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed, and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there.

Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”

Something to Think About:

When Bob was asked to write that story, he had no idea what would evolve from there. Can you imagine the challenge? In January, while his wife is dying of cancer, with a four year old daughter to care for, a man who was raised in Jewish home was asked by his boss to write a cheery Christmas story for all to enjoy. What started as a job, became therapy for himself and his daughter, and to this day, continues to bring joy and happiness to millions of children and families throughout the holiday season.

My Challenge To You:

What are you most thankful for at this time of the year? Pick up the phone today and call someone you love. Then pick up the phone and call someone else you love tomorrow, then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! Make it a week to connect with those you care about, or those you have lost track of over the years. Let’s end this year on the brightest possible note!

Words of Wisdom:

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” – Lucille Ball

“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called ‘All the Things That Could Go Wrong.” – Marianne Williamson

“I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” – E. E. Cummings


I am happy to help you with all your Naperville or Chicago area real estate needs.  Call me, Teresa Ryan at 630-276-7575. As a Naperville luxury real estate expert and Broker/Owner of Ryan Hill, I have the experience and tools to help you meet your goals.

Teresa Ryan

Ryan Hill Realty, a privately-owned real estate company, has served the Chicagoland area since 2001. Originally focused on Residential / "Premier Properties", we have added a Commercial and an REO/Foreclosure division, making it a full service brokerage for both Business to Business and Business to Consumer clients. Ryan Hill Realty's marketing is "Best-In-Class", creatively marketing each home for maximum exposure, and professionally serving every buyer during their home buying experience. Ryan Hill Realty attributes it growth and success to their commitment to delivering "Outstanding Service and Results", adjusting to the market and their client's needs, and their expertise in specific marketing strategies for serving "High End" Luxury Property clients, to First-Time Homebuyers, as well as Multi-Family and Investment clients. Ryan Hill Realty is also a "Woman Owned" Company and is committed to giving back to community with over 45 Realtors serving the 6-county Chicago Metro area. The company's mission is to deliver the ‘American Dream' by serving clients and community with passion and excellence.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply: