The U.S. Forest Service Smokey Bear Collection spans the years 1902-1994 with the bulk of materials dating from 1942 to the 1970s. It consists of 115 linear feet including 20 map case drawers, 53 boxes, and over 100 films. The materials are in good condition. The collection was partially processed by Rebecca A. Zeltinger in 1998. Katelyn Dion processed Series V. Photographs in 2011. Portions of the collection remain in need of processing. For additional information, please contact Special Collections.
The collection was established by a cooperative agreement between the United States Forest Service and the National Agricultural Library (NAL) in 1986 to document the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) Program. The Forest Service transfers core (CFFP) material and appropriate background material to NALs Special Collections Branch to build a complete permanent collection. In 1990, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) transferred numerous pieces of original artwork, mechanicals, and proofs (used in creating the (CFFP) posters) that had been deemed non-record material. Many items in the collection were displayed in the 1994 Happy Birthday Smokey! traveling exhibit organized by the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, in association with the USDA Forest Service, Lee Kimche and Associates, and Historic Preservation Associates.
The reproduction of the Smokey Bear is restricted by Public Law 98-318 Title 18 and by 36 CFR, Part 271. Permission must be granted by the United States Forest Service.
Finding Aid File
The United States Forest Service was formed by the Transfer Act of February 1, 1905, which transferred the responsibility of our nation's forests from the Department of the Interior to the United States Department of Agriculture. The agency was originally established by Congress in order to protect our nation's water and timber resources. It presently has a much larger focus that of the management and protection of renewable resources, including forage, wildlife, and recreation, as well as water and timber. In pursuit of its mission of "caring for the land and serving the people," the Forest Service offers national leadership in the conservation of our forests and grasslands through financial and technical assistance, research, and outreach.
During World War II, the Forest Service recognized a heightened threat to our nation's woodlands. This reaction was initiated by an attack of an oil field in Southern California, near Los Padres National Forest by a Japanese submarine. Wood was an important commodity for the war effort. It was feared that the Japanese would realize this dependency and would attempt to wipe out this resource. Fortunately, the shelling did not start a forest fire. But, this event made government officials realize that our nation's citizens also pose a threat to our forests. In response, the Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program in 1942. Together with the Wartime Advertising Council (later, the Advertising Council), the (CFFP) launched a poster campaign to remind the citizenry of their responsibilities. The campaign first employed war slogans. In 1944 Walt Disney's Bambi was used. Because of Bambi's popularity, the Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council decided to use a bear as their own animal mascot for the (CFFP) campaign.
Smokey Bear was named after "Smokey Joe" Martin who was the assistant chief of the New York City Fire Department from 1919-1930. The character of Smokey Bear was first painted by Albert Staehle in 1944. Numerous artists were involved in the development of the Smokey Bear character, most notably Rudolph Wendelin who painted for the (CFFP) program from 1949 until his retirement in 1973. Smokey Bear's famous slogan, "Remember, only you can prevent forest fires!" was developed by the Wartime Advertising Council in 1947. The character of Smokey Bear was vitalized by a live bear cub who suffered a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico in 1950. This bear, Smokey, and a later fire victim, Little Smokey, lived their lives at the National Zoo. Smokey Bear celebrated his 50th birthday in 1994.
Scope and Content Note
The Smokey Bear Collection consists of an assortment of materials dating from 1902 to 1994 (with the bulk dating from 1942 to the 1970s). These items document the personalities and the activities of the United States Forest Service's fight against fire. The majority of the items relate to the various advertising activities of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program which began in 1942. Topics documented herein include the development of the Smokey Bear character in all of its manifestations, the maturation of the live bears: Smokey and Little Smokey, and public appearances of the costumed Smokey Bear. The materials consist of original paintings and drawings, reproduction posters, color proofs, mechanicals, printed material (including foreign material), clippings, slides, photographs, negatives, video cassettes, film clips, audio discs, audio reel-to-reel tapes, commercial products and three dimensional memorabilia. The series divisions according to format were imposed on the collection. It had no original order. The collection had been somewhat arranged previously into format groups by the Special Collection's librarian. Very little physical processing or arranging has been completed. Due to the relatively small size of the individual series and to the duplication of an image in various formats, item level inventories were prepared for the Posters, Proofs, Mechanicals, and Original Artwork. A subject heading list was prepared for the Slides. The Special Collections Branch also has the U.S. Forest Service Woodsy Owl Collection. This is an unprocessed collection; please contact Special Collections for additional information.
Series I: Posters, 1902-1994 and No Date. (111 unique items)
Related series: Proofs, Mechanicals, Original Artwork, and Slides.
This series consists of reproduction posters for the United States Forest Service's Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign dating from the 1930s to the 1990s. The early posters have a wartime propagandistic/anti-Nazism theme and those after 1944 are centered around Smokey Bear and his famous slogan, "Only you can prevent forest fires." These posters are the result of a creative process. The collection also includes many of these images at different stages in that process, such as color proofs, mechanicals, or as original paintings. There are approximately 111 different posters in the collection (not counting duplicates). The posters are arranged chronologically by issuance date and numerically by CFFP number and grouped in folders by decade. For example, 1989-CFFP-5 follows 1989-CFFP-2. The item list of posters includes the year of issue or CFFP number and the primary text for each poster. Some descriptions may include artist name, dimensions, number of copies, other formats of the image in the collection, or poster type (board, puzzle, pull-tabs, etc.).
Series II: Proofs, 1973-1984 and No Date. (35 unique items)
Related series: Posters, Mechanicals, Original Artwork, and Slides.
This series contains the color proofs produced in the process of making the photomechanical poster prints and other materials for the United States Forest Service's Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. For the most part, these test prints consist of four color separations and a composite. There are approximately 35 proofs dating from 1973 to 1984. Many of these are of the reproduction posters, but others are of various types of publications, such as bookmarks, stamps, stickers, etc. The proofs are arranged chronologically by the year of creation and numerically by CFFP number, if one has been given. The number, 1977-CFFP-1, has 1977 as its year of creation and 1 as the CFFP number and therefore precedes 1977-CFFP-2. Each entry in the item list of proofs consists of the year of creation or CFFP number and the primary text. Some entries include publication type, number of copies, or other formats of the image in the collection.
Series III: Mechanicals, 1950s-1985 and No Date. (27 unique items)
Related series: Posters, Proofs, Original Artwork, and Slides.
This series is comprised of the mechanicals used in the production of such items as reproduction posters, stickers, postcards, placemats, and magazine and newspaper advertisements for the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. There are approximately 27 mechanicals dating from the 1950s to 1985. The mechanicals are arranged chronologically by creation date and numerically by CFFP number. An item with just a year of creation precedes those with CFFP numbers and 1982-CFFP-3 precedes 1982-CFFP-8, for example. Each entry in the item list of mechanicals consists of the year of creation or CFFP number and the primary text. Some entries include publication type or other formats of the image in the collection.
Series IV: Original Artwork, 1946-1977 and No Date. (50 items)
Related series: Posters, Proofs, Mechanicals, and Slides.
This series consists of original artwork that was used in the production of various forms of publications for the United States Forest Service's Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program. There are approximately 50 pieces dating from 1946 to 1977. Most of the works were done with tempera on illustration board. Perhaps the artist most associated with Smokey Bear is Rudolph Wendelin. Other artists involved in the CFFP campaign were Richard Black, M. Corning, Richard Foes, Galloway, George Giusti, James Hansen, Kuderna, Craig Pineo, Ken Smith, Willardson, Teresa Woodward, and Zermeno. The pieces are organized chronologically by year of creation and numerically by CFFP numbers within the same year or alphabetically by the artist's last name. The item list of original works of art includes the year of creation or CFFP number, the artist name, and the primary text for each work or a short description of the image. Some entries may include publication type or other formats of the image in the collection. Included in the original artwork series are approximately 240 pencil and ink drawings on paper and illustration board for the "Smokey Says..." publications. These date from 1964 to 1975.
Series V. Photographs. 1939-1981. 13 boxes.
This series photographs, slides and negatives of Smokey Bear and the works of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. The series contains three subseries and are all arranged by topic.
The photograph series is comprised of approximately 200 images (not including duplicates), which date from 1945-1975. Most are gelatin developing out paper photographs (with black and white images), but there are numerous color photographs as well. These images document the personalities and activities of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. The majority capture the maturation of the live bear cubs, Smokey and Little Smokey. There are images of Smokey with a veterinarian dressing his wound, Little Smokey at National Airport, the bears living at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Smokey with his birthday cakes, etc. Other notable images include President Dwight D. Eisenhower holding a Smokey Bear doll, scenes of fire damage, Rudolph Wendelin receiving the silver Smokey Bear trophy, publicity visits by the costumed Smokey Bear mascot, Jackson Weaver (radio voice of Smokey Bear), and the Smokey Bear float in the Pasadena Rose Parade. Some are mounted on boards, but many are loose. Some of the photographs have already been digitized and their file names are listed on the folders. The mounted prints are numbered and have captions. Both slides and negatives exist for some of the photographs.
Subseries V.B. Slides. 1945-1975. 2 boxes.
The slide series consists of approximately 1,675 slides (including duplicates) capturing the people, animals, places, events, etc. related to Smokey Bear and the United States Forest Service's fight against forest fires. Most are color slides, but there are numerous black and white slides mounted on glass. The slides date from 1939 to 1981. The slides are in sleeves and grouped by subject including Young Smokey, Smokey at the National Zoo, Costumed Smokey, Smokey Campaign, Posters, Rose Parade, TV Spots and Celebrities and Rudy Wendelin. A few slide presentations with scripts are also included. The item list provides the subject headings for the respective boxes and two binders.
Subseries V.C. Negatives. 1948-1985. 2 boxes.
The negative series consists of the negatives for both the photomechanical poster prints and the photographs. These date from 1948 to 1985 and range in size from snapshot to poster. There are four part negatives for the poster prints and single negatives for the photographs. The negatives are currently mixed with the posters, proofs, and photographs. There is a partial item level inventory for 41 unique sets of negatives that correspond to images in the inventories for the posters, proofs, mechanicals, and original artwork.
Series VI: Printed Material, 1946-1972 and No Date. (0.75 lin. ft.)
This series contains various types of printed material pertaining to Smokey Bear and the Forest Service's fight against forest fires.
This series contains newspaper and magazine clippings, calendars, book covers, rulers, songsheets, a litter bag, and a braille bookmark and conservation pledge, among other items, dealing directly and indirectly to Smokey Bear and the campaign against forest fires. The date range is 1955 to 1972 with a few undated items. The majority of these items are joint advertising efforts between the Forest Service and businesses to promote forest fire prevention. Among the companies represented are Sinclair Oil Corporation, Allis-Chalmers Caterpillar, TRW Electronics, General Motors, Lucky Strike, McCulloch Corporation, and Phillip Morris. It also includes a reproduction copy of a souvenir scrapbook  for the president of American Tobacco Company, Paul M. Hahn, several examples of Rudolph Wendelin's art for Reader's Digest, an advertisement for a ruby-red velour Smokey Bear hat by Adolfo, as well as a color photograph of an illustrated poem created by a Smokey Bear fan.
Subseries 2: Foreign Countries, 1946-1970, No Date. (0.5 lin. ft.)
This series is comprised of a potpourri of materials from the forest fire prevention campaign in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Venezuela, Italy, Taiwan, and Cambodia dating from 1946 to 1970. Materials are in the language of the respective countries and are without translations, except for a few items in Spanish. The posters, coloring books, brochures, bookmarks, calendars, clippings, and other published material depict Smokey Bear and other characters including, Simon the Forest Ranger (Mexico), Tio Consejo (Venezuela), and Smokey Koala (Australia). The series also contains radio announcement scripts and speeches. The materials are currently mixed together in the box. They ought to be arranged by country name and chronologically within each country. NOTE: A number of the posters are oversize. Several of the Mexican coloring books have rusty paper clips holding translations to every page.
Series VII: Audiovisual Material, 1956-1984 (6 lin. ft.)
This series contains moving-picture and sound recordings dealing with Smokey Bear and the advertising and publicity for the Forest Service's campaign against forest fires.
This series includes approximately 100 16mm and 35mm film recordings dating from 1958 to 1979. There are black and white as well as color and sound as well as silent clips promoting the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. Most are short 10-60 second clips, but others are longer recordings. Several clips are television spots by the Ad Council with celebrities Ray Charles and Will "Grandpa Walton" Geer. Other clips include live Smokey living at the National Zoo, a Smokey Bear promotional before a Fess Parker feature film, an ad for the Smokey Bear doll, the Smokey Bear float in the 1964 and 1973 Rose Parade, the Smokey Bear balloon in the 1966 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a news feature of the live bear, Dennis Weaver retelling the Smokey Bear story, The Ballad of Smokey Bear narrated by James Cagney, Hopalong Cassidy's visit to the zoo, and several Smokey Bear songs.
This series also includes 11 U-matic video cassette recordings dating from 1978 to 1982. These cassettes document the various activities of Smokey Bear and the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. Events captured include, Smokey Bear on Hollywood Squares and Entertainment Tonight, the 1979 Tournament of Roses Parade, CFFP advertisements, Bambi and Smokey, and news reports of the passing of Smokey by Walter Cronkite, Lesley Stahl, and Henry Tennenbaum.
Subseries 2: Sound Recordings, 1956-1984 (0.5 lin. ft.)
This series is comprised of 7 audio reel-to-reel tapes and 2 audio discs dating from 1956 to 1984. The tapes contain numerous takes for the Smokey Bear spots by Buddy Ebsen and Jackson Walker. Also included is Eddy Arnold singing "Smokey Bear." The audio discs are part of a radio kit celebrating Smokey's 40th birthday with such personalities as Barbara Mandrell, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, B.B. King, and Laurindo Almeida.
Series VIII: Memorabilia, 1950s-1970s and No Date. (3.5 lin. ft.)
This series consists of commercial and commemorative items relating to Smokey Bear and the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) campaign. These items date from approximately the 1950s to the 1970s. The items include comic books, children's books, songbooks, records, a boardgame, a toy set, dolls, iron-ons, clothing, ashtrays, plaques, a Smokey Bear gold statue, among other things.
Smokey Bear Images
Forest Service Historical Photograph Collection
How can I access Forest Service Photographs?
In 2004, Special Collections transferred the "U.S. Forest Service Historical Photograph Collection" to the:
Still Picture Reference,
Special Media Archives Services Division
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001