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Little Smokey (1953)

Little Smokey


12 minutes

Documentary / Family

Narrated by William Boyd aka Hopalong Cassidy

Little Smokey: The True Story of America 's Forest Fire Preventin' Bear.  The story of Smokey the Bear, from cub in the woods to the Washington Zoo and the Forestry Service campaign.

Historical Sketch of Smokey the Bear

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.  

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