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Smokey Bear Postcards

Smokey Bear (often called Smokey the Bear or Smokey), a mascot of the United States Forest Service, is one of the most recognizable advertising mascots in the Untied States. He is a bear depicted as a firefighter wearing jeans and a campaign hat. His name appears on both his hat and his belt buckle. Smokey was created in 1944 to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires. An early slogan was "Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires". The slogan "Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires" was created in 1947. This is the slogan that appears on the "official" Forest Service postcards of the 1960s.

The Forest Service postcards of the 1960s also show the Advertising Council Public Service symbol. They are double postcards with perforations between the two cards. The two cards usually have the same image, but usually have slightly different wording on the two sides of the backs. Some cards list the Forestry Division of a particular state, while others with the same image do not. I believe the California card below is the earliest of the double postcards. It is slightly smaller than standard size--3-1/4" high instead of the usual 3-1/2". It is dated GPO: 1962 on the front. My example was postally used in 1965 and does not have any printed information on the back.

 

The next postcard has a Smokey sign on a tree and also shows a deer and a campsite. It is dated GPO: 1963. My double card has South Dakota State Forest Service printed at the bottom of one card's back and U.S. Department of Agriculture--Forest Service on the other. Both refer to outdoor recreation at the top of the back.

 

The next postcard with two deer and a lake has a small image of Smokey's head next to the slogan on the front. The back has the same outdoor recreation as the above card and is dated GPO:1965.

 

The next postcard with the slogan "Protect Your Playland" has different images on the two halves of the double postcard: one with a fisherman, the other with some deer. Smokey only appears as a small black symbol on the back of this card. The back of the deer side says to "Protect the natural beauty of the East" while the fishing side says to "Protect the natural beauty of the West." This card is dated 7-66. My example is from California.

 

The "Thanks Folks" postcard is dated GPO: 1967 and has the outdoor recreation message on the back. It has "State Forestry Department" printed on the back--no state named.

 

The postcard with the partially burned "Please Be Careful" sign is dated GPO: 1968 and has the outdoor recreation message on the back. My example is from California.

 

The next two postcards have artwork signed by Rudolph Wendelin (1910–2000). Wendelin was a United States Forest Service employee and the best-known Smokey Bear artist. Beginning in 1944, Wendelin became the full-time artist for the Smokey Bear campaign. He was considered Smokey Bear's "caretaker" until his retirement in 1973. The Wildfires card is from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The card showing Smokey posting a sign is one of the cards celebrating Smokey's 50th Anniversary in 1994.

 

The next two postcards were published by official Smokey Bear licensees for the 1994 50th Anniversary.

 

Smokey and friends appear on a licensed postcard from Woodland Enterprises. The illustration is reproduced from a famous campaign poster and has a message on the back reminding us that we need to be careful, because the forest is filled with our friends.

 

For many years there was a real "Smokey" at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D. C. He was an American Black Bear rescued from a 1950 forest fire in New Mexico. He was presented to the National Zoo and lived there for 26 years. He is shown on this circa 1959 postcard.

 

The Smokey Bear Museum in Capitan, New Mexico was built as a memorial to the famous rescued bear. The original museum opened in 1961.

 

A 26 foot tall Smokey Bear statue is located in International Falls, Minnesota. This statue was erected in 1954 and is dedicated to forest fire prevention and conservation.

 

Smokey Bear postcards are a fun topic to collect. There actually aren't very many of them, but you might find some in unexpected places. Below are some of the lesser known ones I have found.


Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland

 


Y.M.C.A. Camp west of Estes Park, Colorado

 


Marineland of Florida fire-fighting porpoise

 


Sign at Beaver's Bend State Park, Oklahoma

 


Greetings from the 1985 National Boy Scout Jamboree

 


1988 Color-Gram booklet of Minnesota Twins baseball player postcards to color

 

Sources:

Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear from Wikipedia

Rudolph Wendelin from Wikipedia

Smokey Bear Museum

 

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