South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) classifieds, information, links
South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) classifieds, information, links
21C-Online, general audience, original writing, original photography, original art
South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) classifieds, information, links on alternatives including life & health
The True Story Behind Smokey Bear

By Marjory Houston

During World War II a Japanese sub landed near a wooded area in Southern California. The fear of forest fires caused a fire-prevention campaign and a symbol was needed to alert the nation and help win the war.

Many symbols were suggested including Walt Disney's Bambi. Albert Staehle, considered America's greatest animal illustrator, was called upon to donate his talent. Remember that this was wartime and all Americans were expected to do their part. He was asked to paint a Raccoon, but Staehle felt a bear would personify the father of the forest and besides, "A raccoon looks like a bandit" he joked. He then painted a bear dressed in blue jeans and a forest ranger's hat, pouring a pail of water on a small fire. It was decided to name Staehle's creation, "Smokey" for a famous New York City firefighter, Smokey Joe Martin. The poster proved successful and Staehle painted two more in successive years. Eventually, as his popularity increased, Smokey's image was changed somewhat to look more like a cartoon bear which made it easier to animate him for television commercials.

Little did my late husband realize that the mascot he created as a wartime donation, would become the most recognizable animal figure in American History. People often ask if he got any money from the many souvenirs sold as keepsakes. The answer is no. The money realized from these sales is given for forest education, It is ironic that of the hundreds of illustrations painted that are now part of Americana, the one Staehle is remembered for is a donation to his country in time of war.

Since Smokey's creation in 1944, many people have tried to claim association with the famous bear. By 1950 in New Mexico, a small cub was rescued in a forest fire and promptly named Smokey. It was implied that he was the real Smokey. It made good copy and when I would tell people that my husband created the bear, they would say, "I thought be was a cub they found in a forest fire."

Feeling that this was not fair to Staehle's memory, I asked my Congresswoman, Carrie P. Meek what I could do for recognition. First she made sure that there was no doubt of Staehle's contribution. It became a part of the Congressional Record. Then, she got in touch with Mike Espry, Secretary of Agriculture, as Smokey's 50th Anniversary was coming up. He was instrumental in presenting me with a plaque to acknowledge Staehle's art. Espry also had a permanent plaque placed at the headquarters of the USDA to memorialize Alber Staehle's contributions to the preservation, of our nations forests.

A little about Albert Staehle:
Albert Staehle (1899-1974) is considered America's greatest animal Illustrator. He originated ' Smokey the Bear ", the Swan soap symbol, the precursor of "Elsie the Cow", and hundreds of prize-winning paintings for major American firms and magazines. Butch," his real-life Cocker Spaniel, appeared on 25 Saturday Evening Post and 30 American Weekly covers. Staehle also painted other Cocker Spaniels for 4 American Legion magazine covers. Butch was America's Cover Dog and was sworn in as the official mascot of the U.S. Navy. Butch did no tricks, he simply personified the love, animal lovers feel for their pets.




Picture Gallery

Thanks for your participation.

South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) classifieds, information, links
South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) classifieds, information, links
21C-Online, general audience, original writing, original photography, original art
South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach) classifieds, information, links on alternatives including life & health

Thanks for your participation.
This web-based magazine is published by Online Publications.com and Copyrighted 1999-2003 by OnLine Publications.com. All submitted articles retain the copyright of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff or editors of  www.miami-dade-online.com or OnLine Publications.com or its Affiliates, Associates, or Sponsors. You can find us on America Online by using the KEYWORD AT AOL "Wilderyard". You can E-Mail us at SouthFloridaUS@aol.com Please, see our legal information before using or copying any web-based materials published by Online Publications.com or if participating as a classified, display or online brochure client, by CLICKING - LEGAL