Smokey Bear: A Legend That Spread Like Wildfire

Though his face may be familiar did you know that the anthropomorphic ursine park ranger Smokey Bear was created specifically to prevent forest fires? He was created in the USA during World War II as part of an initiative to prevent forest fires that were capable of causing a significant strain on manpower and resources needed for the war effort. 

The forest fire prevention campaign initially included posters featuring characters from Walt Disney’s Bambi, proving to be popular with public audiences and really helped to spread the word. This success led to the U.S. Forest Service creating a brand new icon of their own in 1944, Smokey Bear…

Smokey first appeared looking resplendent in his U.S. Forest Service hat and blue jeans whilst cheerfully pouring a bucket of water over an abandoned campfire. Alongside the legend “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!” Though the original plan was for Smokey to feature on just one poster and one book cover, instead he became a national treasure and the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign lasted a whopping 70 years.

Whilst Smokey’s message may have changed over the decades, the joint responsibility for preventing fires has remained a constant. It clearly worked too as by the 1950s the average number of wildfires in the US had decreased by over 40,000 per year – with the average number of acres burned by wildfires significantly dropping each year – going from 22 million in 1944 to just 6.6 million in 2011.

Is it any wonder that the legendary heritage brand Filson has chosen this well dressed, outdoor-loving, and heroic American icon as the inspiration behind a new collection? Because when it comes to bears, you might as well have the best….

Words by

Neil Summers.

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