Most folks know Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer from the 1964 Rankin-Bass TV special, or from the 1949 version of the song sung by Gene Autry. But Rudolph was born as a coloring book.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department store asked one of its copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to create a Christmas story the store could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick.
The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year; and it was decided that creating its own book would save money. In the first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by Montgomery Ward.
Read the rest of the story at the Smithsonian Institution. Link