Happy Birthday Smokey!

How many of us know Smokey Bear?  The beloved icon of Americana that shaped our youth and captured our hearts with powerful commercials of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that sent home the message of how to properly care for putting out the flames and keeping the animals and forests alive.

August 9, 1944, 65 years ago today, Smokey came into being.

That’s right.  It’s the bear’s birthday!

Touting his “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” campaign, many came to widely know the importance of forest fire prevention. The campaign is the longest running public service advertising campaign in US history.

Although Smokey Bear was a fictional character, in 1950 a lone bear cub had been caught in a firestorm in a forest fire in New Mexico. The bear sustained burns to his paws and needed care. He received the care he needed and found a home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. where he became the national symbol for the real life Smokey.

It was in 1952 that Smokey became “Smokey The Bear” with the anthem created by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson. “The” was added between “Smokey” and “Bear” to keep rhythm for the anthem, thus creating quite a bit of controversy to the bear’s name.

There were 22 million forest fires in 1944 before the ad campaign came out compared to approximately 6.5 million today.

Beginning at 2 pm on the patio of the Whitten Building, Smokey’s birthday party is taking place on August 10 at the Whitten Building USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where the release of Smokey’s new bilingual “big book” for children will be made available to a new generation.

The party includes a reading of the book, a performance by Alexandria Children’s Chorus followed by the cutting his of cake by Smokey himself. The illustrator will also be there to sign his book.

Happy Birthday Smokey!  We love you!

For more information you can contact the forest service at (202)-205-1134.

Sources:  Smokeybear.com, USDA