Wartime Fire Safety USA style with Smokey the Zoo Bear

Careless Matches Aid the Axis!

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!  

One of the college  sessions I teach at Newquay Zoo uses a story about  animal feeding enrichment for Smokey the Bear at the famous National Zoo Park Washington DC.  I visited “The Zoo” in 2002, so I may have seen Smokey’s descendents.

smokeybear2

Smokey the Bear eating from a Honey Tree created by staff at Washington National Zoo 1984 (Smithsonian Archive 95-1209 / Wikipedia source)

Checking up on his story I found a whole article on how this Zoo Bear was the basis for the design of the Smokey The Bear character https://smokeybear.com/en/smokeys-history?decade=1940 ; on his website are some evocative wartime forest fire safety  posters.

In 1944, the USDA Forest Service asked Albert Staehle to create a mascot for its wartime fire prevention campaign.

smokeybear1944

After considerable deliberation, Staehle finally settled on a bear. The bear, he felt, could be portrayed as the father of the forest. The bear was fitted with a ranger’s hat, blue jeans, a badge, and a bucket of water to put out fires.

smokey3

Albert Staehle’s creation, much to the benefit of our forests, is now the most recognizable animal figure in modern American history.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/smokey-bear-the-spokesman-and-national-zoo-highlight-46338270/?no-ist

Another Smithsonian Mag article explores how
“the iconic fire safety mascot was actually the brainchild of the Advertising Council, who in 1944 feared that Japanese explosives would ignite large-scale conflagrations in the Pacific Northwest’s forests. During World War II, most able-bodied firemen were fighting abroad.
The Advertising Council created Smokey to encourage communities to control and prevent blazes in their own backyards. But Smokey transcended his status as a popular public service image after Harry Rossoll began drawing his weekly “Smokey Says” cartoons in the mid-1940s.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/before-pharrell-smokey-bear-donned-now-trendy-head-hat-as-symbol-fire-safety-180951803/#mjEThIzQZeJF2Y34.99

Smokey’s story is also well told  in the Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokey_Bear

A tribute to the artist and bear 50 years on from 1944 in the 1994 US Congressional Record

TRIBUTE TO ALBERT STAEHLE: CREATOR OF SMOKEY BEAR

HON. CARRIE P. MEEK in the House of Representatives WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1994

  • Mrs. MEEK. Mr. Speaker, this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Smokey Bear. For the past 50 years, Smokey Bear has been a symbol of fire prevention for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

  • He has instilled in generations of Americans the message-Remember–Only you can prevent Forest Fires!–a message of personal responsibility in the fight against carelessly caused wildfires.

  • The original Smokey Bear was born from the imagination and pen of the late Albert Staehle , considered America’s greatest animal illustrator. In 1944, the USDA Forest Service asked Albert Staehle to create a mascot for its wartime fire prevention campaign. After considerable deliberation, he finally settled on a bear. The bear, he felt, could be portrayed as the father of the forest. The bear was fitted with a ranger’s hat, blue jeans, a badge, and a bucket of water to put out fires.

  • Albert Staehle’s creation, much to the benefit of our forests, is now the most recognizable animal figure in modern American history. Little did he know at the time that his creati on would become a legend and constant reminder of the importance of preserving our precious forests

  • During his lifetime, Mr. Staehle created such memorable animal figures as `Butch,’ the lovable cocker-spaniel who graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post, Borden’s Elsie the Cow and of course, the Forest Service’s Smokey Bear. However, his work was not just confined to the animal kingdom. His genius was displayed in a variety of media including posters, magazine advertisements and house organs. He also designed war posters that were considered to be quite striking. His posters were consistent prize winners, in 1938-40 winning the prestigious Kerwin H. Fulton Medal for the Advancement of Art in Outdoor Advertising. He also won awards for his art from the Chicago Outdoor Advertising Association and the Art Directors Club of Philadelphia.

  • Albert Staehle was born in Munich, Germany, and came to New York when he was 14. He was a third-generation artist. He is the late husband of Marjory Staehle , a resident of the 17th Congressional District of Florida.

  • Mr. Speaker, until this year, Mr. Staehle has not been given the recognition he deserves for his contribution to the Smokey Bear campaign against forest fires. The American public was unaware and the U.S. Government has overlooked Albert Staehle’s contribution.

  • Mr. Speaker, I applaud the Department of Agriculture Forest Service decision to recognize Albert Staehle for the significant contribution he made to our national heritage.

The 70th anniversary was proudly celebrated with Big  Birthday Bear Hugs in 2014.

Posted By Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, November 2016.

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