Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer originated in a free booklet first given to children in 1939 by the Montgomery Ward department store chain. Written by Robert L. May, a store copywriter, the story replaced coloring books that had been handed out in previous years. More than 2.3 million copies were distributed in 1939. The more-familiar 1949 song and 1964 animated cartoon differed significantly from the original.

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