smokey bear
Smokey Bear
Web Resources
Suggested Reading List & Videos

The Story Of Smokey Bear
Kindly reprinted with permission of Smokey Bear Historical Park

As early as 1902, Americans were being warned about the damages of unwanted human caused forest fires, but no formal campaign aimed at prevention existed. Then in 1939 a poster entitled "Your Forest-Your Fault" featured a Forest Ranger in the image of Uncle Sam pointing to a raging forest fire. During the years of 1936-1941 a total of 210,000 forest fires burned over 30 million acres of forest and range land. Nine out of ten were human caused. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Japanese submarine surfaced off of the coast of Southern California and fired shells near the Los Padres National Forest. In 1942, the USDA-Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program. War posters carried fire prevention messages, "Careless Matches Aid the Axis" and "Our Carelessness, their Secret Weapon."

In 1944 the Wartime Advertising Council decided to use an animal to carry the fire prevention message. Walt Disney agreed to lend the image of Bambi, for a year, to be the first to carry the message. On August 9, 1944 a bear was chosen to be the spokesman for forest fire prevention. The bear was named "Smokey" after a well-known Assistant Fire Chief named Smokey Joe Martin. The first slogan, "Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires" was developed and artist Albert Staehle became Smokey's creator. Within a couple of years, another artist named Rudy Wendelin took over as the Smokey Bear artist and stayed with Smokey until his retirement in 1973. Smokey's message "Remember only you can prevent forest fires" was coined in 1947.

Smokey CubEvents on May 9, 1950 changed forever the way Americans would look at the forest fire prevention message. On this day in history, a 5 lb. black bear cub was found after a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains near Capitan, New Mexico.  Named Smokey after the poster bear, the cub was later sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to become the "living symbol" for fire prevention. By 1952, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed into law the Smokey Bear Act, public law 359. This law gave control of the image of Smokey to the Secretary of Agriculture so that there would be no unlawful use of Smokey Bear's image. To date, over 135 licenses have been issued and well over 3 million dollars in royalties have been collected for forest fire prevention education efforts. One of those education efforts included the Junior Ranger Program. The Junior Ranger Program began in 1953 and encourages children to help Smokey prevent forest fires. By 1976, well over six million kids had enrolled in the Junior Ranger Program.

Smokey Bear Poster 1 In the late 1950's, a search was underway for a mate for Smokey, and in 1961 "Goldie", an orphaned female black bear also from New Mexico, arrived in Washington to be Smokey's mate. Sadly no cubs were ever born to the couple and a search was begun to find an adopted son. By 1964 Smokey's fan mail was so great that he was given his own zip code, 20252. The only other celebrity to have this honor is the President of the United States. In 1971, another orphaned black bear was found and sent to Washington, D.C. to become "Little Smokey". His training lasted for four years when Smokey retired in 1975 after serving for 25 years as the "living symbol" for fire prevention and Little Smokey takes over. On November 9th, 1976, Smokey passed away and was returned to his hometown of Capitan, New Mexico and is buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park. 1984 marked the 40th birthday of the poster Smokey and was celebrated by a commemorative stamp designed by Rudy Wendelin, with the first day issue being in Smokey's hometown of Capitan. The story of the "living symbol" closed with the death of Little Smokey on August 11, 1990. "Little Smokey" was buried in an undisclosed location in Washington, D.C. The Smokey and Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program turned 50 years old in 1994 and was celebrated all over the United States. The CFFP is the longest running public service advertising campaign in the history of the Ad Council.

Smokey Bear Poster 2 The year 2000 began a new chapter in the history of Smokey Bear. The Village of Capitan celebrated the 50th birthday of the "living symbol" Smokey and will continue to tell the story of one of Americas most famous animals! In 2004, Capitan celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Smokey Bear fire prevention program and was attended by over 7,000 people from all across the United States!

The past years have been a time of change for both Smokey and the Village of Capitan. The Village continues to grow and also continues to teach Smokey's message to Prevent Unwanted Human Caused Forest Fires. As more and more people continue to build homes in heavily forested areas, Smokey's message may be more important today than when it was first conceived 60 years ago.

Web Resources
Suggested web links related to Smokey Bear, forestry, wildfires and teacher resources.

Smokey Bear
Ad Council - Forest Fire Prevention Campaign
Ballad Of Smokey The Bear
Canadian Forestry Association - Story Of Smokey Bear
Fire Prevention Poster History
Friends Of Smokey Bear Balloon
North American Bear Center
Smokey's Scrapbook
Smokey Bear's Hometown Association
Smokey Bear Days
Smokey Bear Fun Run
Smokey Bear Historical Park
Smokey Bear Official Site
Smokey The Bear Song
USDA Forest Service National Symbols Program - Smokey Bear

Fire Prevention & Wildfires
BLM Smokejumpers
FEMA For Kids - Wildfires
How Stuff Works - Wildfires
National Fire Map
Sparky The Fire Dog
Spotfire Images - Wildfire Photos
U.S. Fire Administration For Kids
Wildfire Facts & Safety
Wildfire News
Wildland Fire - Home Of The Wildland Firefighter

National Association Of State Foresters
National Park Service WebRangers
New Mexico State Forestry Division
Society Of American Foresters - Forestry Fun For Kids
USDA Forest Service

Teacher Resources
Education World - Fire Safety Lesson Plan
Forest Fires - Ecology Lesson Plan
Smokey Bear Official Site - Resources
Syndistar Educational Publishers - Smokey Bear
USDA Forest Service National Video Library - Free Loan Service
Wildfire Education Links

Suggested Reading List & Videos

Available at Capitan Public Library
(Reserves may be placed in-person or by phone)
Fire (World Disasters!)
, Brian Knapp, 1990. ISBN 0811423778 (J904 KNA)

Firefighter, Michael Rex, 2003. ISBN 0439527856 (C REX)

Firefighters: Brothers In Battle (Video). ISBN 1565010744

Firefighters: Their Lives In Their Own Words, Dennis Smith, 2002. ISBN 0385242326 (363.3 SMI)

Fires, V. Gentle and S. Perry. ISBN 083682833X (J363.37 GEN)

Smokey Bear 20252: A Biography, William Clifford Lawter Jr., 1994. ISBN 0964001713 (SW920 SMO)

Smokey Bear And The Great Wilderness, Elliott Speer Barker, 1982. ISBN 086534017X (SW920 BAR)

Young Men And Fire, Norman Maclean, 1992. ISBN 0226500624 (634.9 MAC)

Wildfire (Video). (V628.9 WIL)

Available through bookstores and online retailers
Guardian Of The Forest: A History Of Smokey Bear And The Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program, Ellen Earnhardt Morrison, 1995. ISBN 0962253758

Happy 50th, Smokey Bear!: A Learning Kit About Forests and Fire Safety For Grades K-3, Meryl Hall, Smithsonian Institution, 1993. ASIN B0006P953C

The True Story Of Smokey Bear, Robin Bromley, 1996. ISBN 0721457398
Capitan Public Library
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PO Box 1169
Capitan, NM88316

The library is located at the corner of 2nd Street and Lincoln Avenue. From Highway 380 go south on Lincoln Avenue one block.

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Closed on the following:

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Book Drops
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