6 Things You Didn’t Know About Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear is one of the most recognizable mascots ever created, and has a backstory to match his grand reputation. Read up on the history of the US Forest Service’s fuzzy spokesbear, and cast your vote for your favorite ad icon to be displayed at Advertising Week on October 3rd.

1. Before Smokey Came Along, the US Forest Service used caricatures of Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tōjō on their posters

2. There was a real live bear cub named Smokey Bear that was caught in a wildfire in 1950 in New Mexico.

Smokey climbed a tree to escape the fire, burning his feet and legs in the process. He was later rescued by a group of soldiers and given the name “Hotfoot Teddy”, but was later renamed “Smokey.”

4. Bambi had a brief stint as the mascot of the US Forest Service.

After the release of Bambi in 1942, Walt Disney allowed the US Forest Service to co-opt the character in their fire prevention campaign. The contract expired after only a year and the Forest Service had to come up with their own mascot.

5. Smokey Bear hosted a long running radio show where he discussed the dangers of forest fires with celebrities from the ’50s and ’60s.

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Here he is talking to crooner Bing Crosby.

6. Since his reintroduction in 2008, Smokey Bear has been voiced in commercials by actor Sam Elliott.

7. Smokey Bear wears a campaign hat because all US forest rangers were once calvary soldiers.

Smokey Bear made the hat so recognizable that campaign hats were often called “Smokey Bear hats”. This is why truck drivers refer to police officers (who often wear campaign hats themselves) as “smokeys”.

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