|Statue of Smokey Bear in Smokey Bear Park in International Falls, Minnesota, sculpted by Gordon Shumaker, 1954, Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog #IAS MN000034|
In television and radio ads, Smokey Bear admonished us, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” The Forest Service erected an exhibit outside his enclosure at the zoo and he was visited by thousands of families every year. A popular jingle added the extra “the” in Smokey the Bear, but both are used interchangeably. He even had his own postage stamp.
|Smokey Bear 20 cent postage stamp from 1984 shows Smokey the icon and Smokey the cub clinging to a burned tree. National Postal Museum, #1985.0796.3181.|
|The original Smokey Bear frolicking in a pool at the National Zoological Park in the 1950s, photograph by Francine Schroeder. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative #92-3559.|
He was replaced with Smokey Bear II for the next fifteen years, but the exhibit was closed when Smokey II was retired.
Smokey I passed away in 1976 and his remains were returned to Capitan to rest beneath a stone marker in Smokey Bear Historical State Park.
I have a special fondness for Smokey Bear. When I was five years old in 1953, I fell down while trying to fly a kite and I broke my arm. After taking me to the doctor to have the arm set in a cast, my father consoled me by taking me to the little shop full of toys in my home town of Rochelle Park, New Jersey. I did not hesitate for a moment and picked the little stuffed bear with a shovel, hat, badge, Smokey belt, and Forest Service uniform. Smokey was my constant companion for many, many years! This image on Pinterest is most like mine, although it lacks the shovel. I was rarely seen without him, no matter how much my older sisters teased me, and never went to sleep without him at my side.
The Forest Service is planning to relaunch the Smokey Bear campaign for a 21st century audience, and I suspect he will snuggle with many more little children for generations to come and hopefully reinvigorate the message to care for our national forests.
Pamela M. Henson
Institutional History Division
Smithsonian Institution Archives