From the US Forest Service and Wikipedia…Smokey Bear has warned people about the ravages of wild fire for so long that few people remember how this famous bear first captured our nation’s attention. Dressed in a Ranger’s hat and blue jeans, often sporting a shovel, his famous slogan is one of the most recognized advertising phrases in the world, and is protected by federal law.
Smokey’s debut poster (above) was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his birthday. Overseen by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign, the first poster was illustrated by Albert Staehle. In it Smokey was depicted wearing jeans and a campaign hat, pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. The message underneath reads, “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!”
In 1937 President Roosevelt kicked off a national campaign to reduce the number of fires caused by people. With approximately forty million acres lost to fire each year across the nation, this campaign featured Uncle Sam as a forest ranger. The message spoke to human element of fire, emphasizing people’s responsibility in protecting the forest.The message- “Your Forests – Your Fault – Your Loss” was a powerful message for the public.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII, the Japanese also attacked an oil field near the Los Padros National Forest in California. With so many men in the military and only a skeleton staff of firefighters remaining, the potential for wild fires struck terror across the country. Americans feared that a fire could destroy our forest resources when wood products were greatly needed for the war effort.
As the prevention of wild fires came into focus, the Wartime Advertising Council developed fire prevention posters with slogans such as, “Forest Fires Aid the Enemy,” and “Careless Matches Aid the Axis.”
In 1944, Walt Disney released the movie “Bambi,” and allowed the Forest Service to use the deer on their campaign posters for one year. This proved effective and showed that a forest animal helped get the message across. The Forest Service decided to continue using an animal and chose a bear for their fire safety mascot.
The next year (1945) Rudy Wedelin became Smokey’s official artist. Smokey Bear soon became popular, so popular that he was given his own zip code because he received such a large amount of fan mail.
Smokey was the first individual animal to ever be honored on a postage stamp. This stamp above commemorated Smokey’s 40th birthday in 1984.
For the kids:
Whever YOU are on Our Planet…
Teach your children about Forest Fires and the Dangers of Playing with Matches and Lighters!!!
Start early and repeat often!!!
# # #