Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and that’s why Smokey Bear is on the job in national forests and parks.
Following concerns about forest fires during World War II, the U.S. Forest Service, War Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters devised a campaign featuring a bear named Smokey in 1944. As drawn by artist Albert Staehle, Smokey was depicted as a brown bear wearing blue jeans and a campaign (ranger) hat on a poster that claimed, “Smokey Says, Care will prevent 9 of out 10 forest fires,” while using a bucket of water to put out campfire ashes.
By 1947, Smokey had traded his water bucket for his trademark shovel and a new slogan was coined, “Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
Smokey’s popular drawn image got a major boost when firefighters battling a blaze in the Capitan Gap of New Mexico in 1950 found a black bear cub clinging to a singed tree. Renamed Smokey, he found a permanent home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and became a live mascot for the US Forest Service. By 1964, Smokey was given his own zip code (20252) due to the amount of letters written to him by children across the country.
After Smokey died on November 11, 1976, his remains were returned to New Mexico and were buried in the garden at Smokey Bear Historical Park.
While different artists over the years have drawn Smokey as cute, friendly or serious, the message has remained the same as Smokey’s image has appeared as stuffed toys, in books, a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (1966) and a Saturday morning cartoon show, “Smokey and Friends”, on the ABC network (1969).
Smokey’s image has been a popular design on souvenir T-shirts since the 1960’s, as shown on this size 4 Fruit of the Loom brand child’s shirt from the Great Smoky Mountains and the nearby Cherokee Reservation just outside the North Carolina entrance.