Smokey Bear turns 65

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- One of the most recognizable icons in America celebrates a birthday this week. Smokey Bear was created in 1944, but the campaign really took off in the 1950s. It was an ad campaign that proved very successful in decreasing forest fires and making Smokey Bear a beloved figure to children of several generations.

Lance Turner likes to sketch and draw. He spends time doing it every day. But in the 1950s, as an art director of storied ad agency Foote, Cone and Belding, he got an assignment to market Smokey Bear.

**History of "Smokey Bear"**![](
Smokey Bear was created in 1944 as part of a wildfire prevention campaign with the catch phrase was "Smokey Says - Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires." In 1947 it was changed to "Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires." In 2001, it was again modified to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires." In 1950 a lone cub was found during a fire in the Capitan Mountains in New Mexico. The cub was rescued from a charred tree with severe burns on his paws and hind legs. The cub was presented to the Chief of the Forest Service by the New Mexico Game Warden to be used in the prevention and conservation campaigns. The bear was sent to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, where he became the living symbol of Smokey Bear. [**](
Turner said, "I liked the outdoors, and so I was chosen to work on the Smokey Bear Project. It was just in the development years. I am not the originator." But Turner's work took Smokey to new heights as the campaign resulted in a measurable drop in forest fires by focusing the message on children.

"Not only did we have billboards and posters in the forests, we also enlisted the schools and put posters and promotional materials in the schools," he said.

Smokey Bear still remains a recognizable figure to people of all ages.

"Smokey took on a personality, and they haven't changed him too much, which is very wise," Turner explained. "You start these slow evolutions and pretty soon Smokey Bear is out the back door as Smokey Bear."

While some of the emotional images of the 50's are gone, Smokey's message and image remains nearly the same: "Only you can prevent wildfires."

**Is it "Smokey Bear" or "Smokey the Bear?"**![](
In 1952 Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote the anthem about Smokey Bear. In order to maintain the correct rhythm, the writers added a "the" between "Smokey" and "Bear". As testament to the song's popularity, Smokey Bear became known as "Smokey the Bear" to many adoring fans, but in actuality his name never changed.[**](
Turner said, "Almost from the beginning he has the ranger's hat and the big round face, and we had him be adorable. That was part of the scheme, so there would be some emotional response to what was going on and that, of course, is what I think caused the success." Even at 65, Smokey Bear is not retiring. In fact the campaign continues on with the U.S. Forest Service, which is making Smokey now bilingual in English and Spanish.


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