Frosty the Salesman

Graham Yelton
Graham Yelton / Graham Yelton

When Gene Autry sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1949, he only did it because his wife made him. He reluctantly recorded the song, refusing to do more than one take. But when the holiday season rolled around and the recording became a commercial juggernaut, the country singer changed his tune. He followed it up with the Easter hit “Peter Cottontail” and then pressed his luck the following Christmas season with a song about a magical snowman.

This time, Autry decided to get in on the merchandising. He teamed up with Sears Roebuck, and the store plastered Frosty on everything from toys to earmuffs. The gimmick worked. With their combined muscle, Sears and Autry sold more than a million copies of the single and countless toys and books, making Frosty not just history’s greatest snowman but one of its savviest marketers.

This story originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Subscribe to our print edition here, and our iPad edition here.