How Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Got His Name

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.

The scrapbook also chronicles the massive marketing campaign Montgomery Ward launched to drum up newspaper coverage of the book giveaway and its efforts to promote it within the company.

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