Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Scrapbook tells how Rudolph went down in history
You know Dasher and Dancer and the rest of the gang. But do you recall, the most "Perfect Christmas Crowd-Bringer" of all? That's how executives at Montgomery Ward originally described Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who first appeared in a 1939 book written by one of the company's advertising copywriters and given free to children as a way to drive traffic to the stores. Curious to know more about how Rudolph really went down in history? It's all in the pages of a long-overlooked scrapbook compiled by the story's author, Robert L. May, and housed at his alma mater, Dartmouth College. May donated his handwritten first draft and illustrated mock-up to Dartmouth before his death at age 71 in 1976, and his family later added to what has become a large collection of Rudolph-related documents and merchandise, including a life-sized papier-mache reindeer that now stands among the stacks at the Rauner Special Collections Library. But May's scrapbook about the book's launch and success went unnoticed until last year, when Dartmouth archivist Peter Carini came across it while looking for something else. "No one on staff currently knew we had it. I pulled it out and all the pieces started falling out. It was just a mess," Carini said. The scrapbook, which has since been restored and catalogued, includes May's list of possible names for his story's title character — from Rodney and Rollo to Reginald and Romeo. There's a map showing how many books went to each state and letters of praise from adults and children alike...Rudolph is described as "the perfect Christmas crowd-bringer," if stores follow a few rules, including giving the book only to children accompanied by adults. "This will limit `street urchin' traffic to a minimum, and will bring in the PARENTS ... the people you want to sell!" The response was overwhelming — at a time when a print-run of 50,000 books was considered a best-seller, the company gave away more than 2 million copies that first year and by the following year was selling an assortment of Rudolph-themed toys and other items. But lest this become a story about corporate greed, it should be noted that in 1947, Montgomery Ward took the unusual step of turning over the copyright to the book to May, who was struggling financially after the death of his first wife. "He then made several million dollars using that in various ways, through the movie, the song, merchandising and things like that," Carini said. "I think it's a great story because it shows how corporations used to think of themselves as part of civil society and how much that has changed." May eventually left Montgomery Ward to essentially manage Rudolph's career, which really took off after May's brother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote the song (made famous by Gene Autry in 1949), and the release of a stop-motion animated television special in 1964. Both the song and movie depart significantly from May's original plot, however. In May's story, Rudolph doesn't live at the North Pole or grow up aspiring to pull Santa's sleigh — he lives in a reindeer village and Santa discovers him while filling Rudolph's stocking on a foggy Christmas Eve. "And you," Santa tells Rudolph, "May yet save the day! Your wonderful forehead may yet pave the way!'"...more
For more on Rudolph, and the history behind Gene Autry's 1949 recording of the tune, see today's Song Of The Day #741.