Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

An American Hero

Ronald D. Lankford

Ronald D. Lankford has written the definitive history of this iconic and much-loved Christmas character. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the creation of Robert May, a staff copywriter who wrote the original poem as a Montgomery Ward Christmas giveaway in 1939. More than 2.4 million copies were printed and given away that holiday season. Thus the legend began. Johnny Marks adapted the poem into what would become the Gene Autry hit “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which instantly became—and still remains—one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. The legend of Rudolph soared even higher with the Rankin/Bass stop-motion television special in 1964, which has gone on to inspire a cottage industry of toys and decorative items. In this festive and informed look at the most famous reindeer of all, Lankford discusses all of Rudolph’s iterations, including comic books, sequels, advertising tie-ins, movies, and much more. Lankford has produced the first complete history of Rudolph that both celebrates and explains the undying popularity of Rudolph and his friends. The result is both a glowing tribute and a rigorously researched biography that will appeal to fans and lovers of classic American holiday culture.

Cover Image of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: An American Hero
Paper: $19.95 | E-book: $17.99
ISBN-13: 9781611687354
Pages: 224 | Size: 7 in. x 8 in.
Date Published: October 4, 2016


  • The Rudolph saga turns out to be more interesting than one might expect-a parable of American commerce cloaked in benevolence. . . . With commendable energy, Mr. Lankford tracks down every Rudolph lead he can find and even resolves conflicting accounts. This can be heavy going for all but the obsessive Rudolphophile. But he also explores the big questions. He shows how the postwar baby boom creates a vast audience for a new children’s character and argues that Rudolph appeals to Americans because the story is actually an inspirational Horatio Alger tale of pluck and luck leading to unlikely success.

    Wall Street Journal
  • Engaging and informative. . . . Lankford’s book, and its lush illustrations, provides a peerless look at a bygone time.

    Washington Post

About the Author

RONALD D. LANKFORD JR. is an author and independent scholar who lives in Appomattox, Virginia. He is the author of Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s, Folk Music USA: The Changing Voice of Protest, and Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs.

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