Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!

Introduction

This is a legacy page. Please see http://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/speccoll/ for the updated exhibit website.

Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service’s popular icon of wildfire prevention, was created during World War II to publicize the need to protect a critical natural resource—wood. To combat the incidence of human-caused forest fires, the U.S. Forest Service established the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program in 1942. The CFFP adopted Smokey as its official symbol two years later. Smokey Bear’s famous slogan, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” was added in 1947 by the Wartime Advertising Council, known today as the Ad Council.

The first artist’s rendering of Smokey was created by Albert Staehle (http://www.albertstaehle.info/) in 1944. Staehle was followed by numerous other Smokey artists. Prominent among these artists was Rudolph (Rudy) Wendelin, whose paintings of Smokey spanned his career with the Forest Service from 1949 to 1973 and continued into his retirement. Wendelin softened and humanized Smokey’s features, making the character more appealing to children, to whom much of the fire prevention campaign was directed.

In 1986, the U.S. Forest Service began to transfer materials collected from the CFFP campaign to the National Agricultural Library (NAL) to be held in Special Collections as permanent documentation of the program. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) transferred additional materials from their holdings to NAL’s Special Collections in 1990. Donations from various Forest Service offices continue to grow the collection at NAL, making it a significant resource documenting the history of the Smokey Bear campaign. The U.S. Forest Service also maintains a website about Smokey at http://www.smokeybear.com.

The Smokey Bear Collection at NAL consists of 115 linear feet of material including posters, proofs, mechanicals, original artwork, motion pictures, sound recordings, and memorabilia. To access the collection, contact:

National Agricultural Library
Special Collections, Room 309-G
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, Maryland 20705

E-Mail: NALSpecialCollections@ars.usda.gov
Telephone: (301) 504-5876

Smokey Bear Through the Eyes of Rudy Wendelin Gallery

The use of Smokey Bear images requires the approval of the U.S. Forest Service and must be associated with a message of fire prevention. For approval, please contact:

Gwen Beavans
USDA Forest Service
National Fire Prevention Coordinator
202-205-1488
Fax: 202-205-1174
gbeavans@fs.fed.us
Painting of Smokey Bear sitting in chair in his office reading his fan mail.
Smokey's Fan Mail (1979)
Painting of Smokey Bear and two cubs in a vehicle driving away from a clean lake full of kids playing.
Ten-Four, Green and Clear (1980)
Painting of Smokey Bear, holding a shovel in his hand and a camping backpack on his back, giving the OK to two cubs who are looking at a camp site occupied by visitors.
OK - Along the Trail (1981)
Painting of Smokey Bear teaching two cubs and a variety of animals in the forest. Smokey points to a poster with a drawing of people plus a lit match equals a burned tree. Behind Smokey is a burned down forest.

Careless People are the Problem (1982)
Painting of Smokey Bear sitting in a chair in his cabin reading a book about trees to the two cubs beside him.
Trees Give Us Many Things (1983)
Painting of Smokey Bear hurrying to finish putting up signs as visitors arrive. Two cubs on top of a picnic table help paint the signs that Smokey is hanging. The signs read "Please Prevent Forest Fires" with a picture of Smokey's face in the center.
Hurry Up- Here They Come (1984)
Painting of Smokey Bear walking through a stream while holding a shovel in one hand and some signs in the other. There are two cubs playing in the stream.
Clean and Sparkling Water (1986)
Painting of Smokey Bear holding a shovel while pointing at a group of visitors looking over a stone wall at the lake and forest. Two cubs hiding in the forest watch the visitors.
Protect Our Resources (1987)
Painting of Smokey Bear posing with a shovel in one hand and a gold medal around his neck for someone drawing a picture of him. There is one cub holding onto the shovel and another cub behind the tree Smokey is leaning on. There is also a deer on the other side of Smokey.
Nature's Gold Medal Winner (1988)
Painting of Smokey Bear reading his mail next to his mail box while two cubs play on it.

Dear Smokey (1989)
Painting of Smokey Bear holding a cub and a shovel in a burned down forest. One side shows another cub holding onto Smokey's leg and on the other side is a deer. In front of Smokey is a burned sign that reads "Prevent Forest and Brush Fires".

Why? (1990)
Painting of Smokey Bear looking at the evidence of a camp fire. The background shows half a forest that is green and full of animals while the other half of the forest is burned down.
The Evidence (1991)
Painting of Smokey Bear sleeping in a bed with a cub in each arm. Smokey is dreaming of visitors entering the camp grounds with forest animals near by.
Only You . . .Can Help Keep the Dream Alive (1992)
Painting of Smokey Bear holding two cubs in his arms while looking at a burned down forest and cabin with the other animals of the forest.
Among the Homeless- Help Prevent Destructive Forest
Wildfires (1993)
Painting of Smokey Bear hugging a tree while on cub is climbing the tree. Another cub is playing with falling leaves.

Trees are Wonderful Friends (1994)
Painting of Smokey Bear holding a shovel while trying to stop a van that is driving away from the camp grounds. Two cubs are putting out a camp fire next to a overflowing trash can that is knocked over.
Hey Come Back- You Forgot Something (1995)
Painting of Smokey Bear holding a cub in one hand and a shovel in another. There is a cub holding onto Smokey's leg and a variety of different forest animals behind Smokey.
Smokey Says- Prevent Wildfires (1995)
Painting of Smokey Bear giving a passing fireman in a fire truck a high five. Two cubs on a tree and other forest animals are around looking at the fire truck.
High Five for Fire Protection (1996)

U.S. Forest Service Smokey Bear Collection Gallery

The use of Smokey Bear images requires the approval of the U.S. Forest Service and must be associated with a message of fire prevention. For approval, please contact:

Fred Hernandez
USDA Forest Service
Acting National Fire Prevention Coordinator
202-205-1488
Fax: 202-205-1174
fhernandez@fs.fed.us

Young Smokey playing with another cub on a tree log holding the Department of Agriculture sign.
Young Smokey (on left) playing in forest (no date)
Young Smokey on top of a rock.
Young Smokey on rock (no date)
Young Smokey in Ray Bell's lap with two posters hanging on the wall behind him.
Young Smokey with Ray Bell (1950)
Young Smokey on top of the front of a plane with Ray Bell standing on the side looking at him.
Smokey, Ray Bell and plane (1950)
Young Smokey sitting on a table checking out the ABC Radio microphone.
Young Smokey on ABC Radio (1950)
Smokey Bear costume and friends visit Flathead Indians and Missoula Smoke Jumpers.
Smokey (costume) and Friends visit Flathead Indians and Missoula Smoke Jumpers (1956)
Young Smokey with Judy Bell, four year old daughter of Ray Bell
Judy Bell, 4 year old daughter of Ray Bell, New Mexico State Forester with her young friend, Smokey (1950)
Grown up Smokey Bear with Judy Bell at the National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C. following White House Golden Smokey Presentation.
Big Smokey Bear with Judy Bell at National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C. following White House Golden Smokey Presentation (1958)
Smokey Bear costume greets three youthful fans with the Washington monument in the background.
Smokey Bear greets three youthful fans in Washington, D.C. (1959)
Costumed Smokey reading mail.
Costumed Smokey with mail (1961)
Dwight Eisenhower with Lord Snowdon looking at a plastic Smokey Bear toy.
Dwight Eisenhower with Lord Snowdon (no date)
Elizabeth Forte poses here with some of the items produced by toy and novelty companies carrying the Smokey name.
Elizabeth Forte poses here with some of the items produced by toy and novelty companies and carrying the Smokey name (1967)
Harrisburg, PA Fire Chief Charles Henry and two firemen with Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl costumes.
Harrisburg, PA Fire Chief Charles Henry (left) & two firemen with Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl (1973)
Smokey Bear costume posing next to the Capitan Forest sign.
Costumed Smokey at Capitan Forest (no date)
Child with Smokey statue.
Children with Smokey statue (no date)
People taking a picture with Smokey Bear statue. Female is kissing statue while the male has his head through a poster hole. Poster reads "Champion Forest Fire Preventer".
People with Smokey Bear statue (no date)
Smokey Bear painting by Albert Staehle. Painting shows Smokey pouring a bucket of water over a fire. Painting reads "Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!"

"Smokey says - Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fies!" By Albert Staehle (1945)

Smokey Bear painting by Albert Staehle. Painting shows Smokey pointing to a chalkboard that has a drawing of a hand crushing a match. There is a cub sitting on a log with papers in their lap. A Smokey head and a match book was glued on to the empty space on the bottom of the painting.
Original artwork at the National Agricultural Library. Titled: "Smokey says - Hold 'till it's cold...prevent forest fires." By Albert Staehle (1940s)
Smokey Bear painting by Albert Staehle. Painting shows Smokey leaning on a beam of wood, that is balanced on top of two sawhorses, while holding an L-square angle ruler. Smokey has his foot on top of a wooden tool box. There is blueprint on the ground with a partially built house in the background.
Original artwork at the National Agricultural Library. Titled: "Smokey says - Burned timber builds no homes. Prevent forest fires." By Albert Staehle (1940s)
Poster by Albert Staehle showing a squirrel on a branch with three squirrels inside of a tree hole. The color of the sky is orange red with yellow. Poster reads *Another enemy to Conquer. Forest Fires. 9 out of 10 can be prevented."
"Another enemy to conquer. Forest Fires. 9 out of 10 can be prevented" By Albert Staehle (1944)
Poster of Walt Disney's Bambi with a rabbit and a skunk standing in grass. Poster reads "Please, Mister, Don't Be Careless. Prevent forest fires. Greater danger than ever!"
Walt Disney's Bambi: "Please, Mister, don't be careless. Prevent Forest Fires. Greater danger than ever!" (1943)
Poster of Walt Disney's Bambi with two blue birds, a red butterfly, a blue butterfly, an owl, a gray rabbit, two tan rabbits, and a skunk in a field full of flowers and a hollow tree log. Poster reads "Only you can prevent forest fires. We can't."
Walt Disney's Bambi: "Only you can prevent forest fires. We can't." (1944)
Smokey Bear poster showing a close up of his eyes, nose, and hat. Poster reads "Repeat after me, 'Only you...'"
"Repeat after me, 'Only you...'" (1977)
Smokey Bear poster showing a half body image of Smokey pointing at the audience with one hand while holding a shovel in the other hand. Poster reads "Only You".
"Only You" (1989)
Smokey Bear poster showing Smokey holding two tan rabbits. Surrounding him there is a blue bird, a tan and blue bird, a orange and black butterfly, a skunk, a raccoon, three yellow ducks, two foxes, a cub, a chipmunk, a deer, what appears to be a beaver, and two small trees. Poster reads "Remember there are babes in the woods."
"Remember there are babes in the woods." (1978)
Poster of Smokey Bear by Teresa Woodward. Poster shows Smokey holding two tan rabbits and surrounded by a deer, a chipmunk, a cub, a raccoon, a blue bird, and an orange butterfly. The background has grass full of flowers, several tall trees, and blue, pink, and yellow clouds. Poster reads "A true friend of Smokey's Leaves matches alone; He won't burn his fingers Or the animals home."
"A true friend of Smokey's
Leaves matches alone;
He won't burn his fingers
Or the animals home."
By Teresa Woodward (1973)
Painting of Smokey Bear by Russ Wetzel. Painting shows Smokey holding a shovel in one hand while hold hands with another cub who is holding hands with a different cub. They are in a forest surrounded by trees. Painting reads "Please folks be extra careful this year! Remember-Only you can prevent forest fires!"
"PLEASE FOLKS be extra careful this year! Remember-Only you can PREVENT FOREST FIRES!" By Russ Wetzel (1947)
Painting of Smokey Bear by James Hansen. Painting shows Smokey pointing at a lake with two blue birds, two deer, a squirrel, and several ducks in the background.
Original artwork at the National Agricultural Library. Smokey pointing at lake. By James Hansen (1952)

Bibliography

  • Lawter, William Clifford, Jr. Smokey Bear 20252: A Biography. Alexandria, Virginia: Lindsay Smith Publishers, 1994.

  • Morrison, Ellen Earnhardt. Guardian of the Forest: A History of the Smokey Bear Program. Alexandria, Virginia: Morielle Press, 1989.

Created: December 2012