Smokey Bear Collectibles And Facts

Smokey Bear collectibles, including lunch boxes, wristwatches, cookie jars, companies, and his artists, such as Albert Staehle and Rudy Wendelin, plus other facts

Many people assume that the "˜Smokey the Bear' image, the United States symbol for forest fire prevention, was created after the May, 1950 fire in Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico, from a small bear cub who was rescued after being burned. In reality, "˜Smokey' was already a growing symbol, created by the artist Albert Staehle, on commission for "˜The Forest Fire Prevention Program'. Smokey was also not the first choice. Walt Disney's Bambi, a deer, was the first character to be placed on posters addressing the problem of forest fires and the prevention of them. Bambi was quoted on posters saying "˜Please, Mister, Don't be Careless, Prevent Forest Fires Greater danger than ever!' Because this was a very successful campaign, in 1945 the Forest Service and the War Advertising Council decided they needed their own symbol, and wanting to continue with another animal, chose a bear. Albert Staehle, already quite famous for his animal drawings, would bring this idea to life, and soon "˜Smokey Bear' promoted his first poster warning "˜Smokey says ~ Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!' depicting Smokey dumping a bucket of water on a campfire.

Throughout the years, the original image of "˜Smokey Bear' created by Albert Staehle, has gone through several different recreations. Rudy Wendelin is credited with being the artist who brought Smokey, as we know him today, into our homes and our hearts. He created the image for Smokey Bear's 40th anniversary commemorative U.S. Postage stamp, and gave Smokey hands that resembled those of firefighter hands more than a bear. Chuck Kuderna, another artist, also helped Smokey evolve from the original Albert Staehle image.

Smokey Facts

Smokey the Bear has his own zip code because he receives so much mail: Smokey the Bear Headquarters, Washington, D.C., 20252

Smokey is so popular that many people believe he is the most recognized American Symbol ever.

The original rescued cub that everyone dubbed the "˜Real Smokey' passed away in 1976

The live cub was flown to the National Zoo as a gift from the state of New Mexico to all the children in the United States. He flew in his own plane emblazoned with his name and a picture showing him with his burnt paw in a sling, wearing blue jeans and his hat

Collectibles Today

Smokey is many collectors' dream. He is available in numerous categories, so is sought after not only by those that collect just "˜Smokey Bear' items, but those that collect toys, advertising, bears, banks, bottles, wristwatches, lunch box sets, etc. He has been depicted on everything from sand pails to comic books, cookie jars to Tonka toys, nearly anything you can imagine. Both old and new items are also available for those wishing to start a collection of Smokey Bear items.

A favorite among collectors is his dual image that graces the 1984 20-cent commemorative stamps. This was in recognition of his 40th birthday. The image that everyone recognizes as Smokey's is centered on the face of the stamp, with a smaller image to the left showing a small Smokey as he may have appeared up a tree when firefighters first discovered him. Another popular collectible that is in homes across the United States is his comics book that he stars in. Designed and produced by the Western Publishing Company, it tells the story of how the cub was found by soldiers brought in from Fort Bliss, Texas, to help fight the terrible fire in Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico. Posters and matchbooks are other sought after items, but can be harder to find as they are not often found in very good condition.

Numerous companies used the image of Smokey Bear in their products, which has provided collectors with many other choices besides, and along with, those issued by the fire prevention council. Ideal Toy Company manufactured plush bears, complete with hat and badge, and a paper telling Junior Forest Rangers their rights and duties. Ideal Toy Company also manufactured a Bakelite vinyl resin doll. Milton Bradley produced the Smokey Bear Game in 1968. Norcrest distributed a cookie jar of Smokey with the front of his hat spelling out his name, and the back of the hat displaying the ever-popular message of Prevent Forest Fires. The Forest Fire Prevention Program officially licensed the Smokey the Bear record (33 1/3-rpm), produced by Tinkerbell Records and distributed by the Ambassador Record Corp. Some of the included songs were Smokey the Bear, Teddy Bears on Parade, and The Mean Old Grizzly Bear. The Tonka Company produced a "˜Camping The Smokey Bear Way' play set in the 1970's, complete with a Smokey Bear figure. Colgate-Palmolive distributed plastic soap containers for children in the 1960's. Many different companies have produced Smokey Bear wristwatches. Hawthorne made one in the 1960's, Bradley produced an Official Licensee Forest Service USDA, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires, Swiss Made watch, and plastic versions are available by many companies from today, one even offering a 3D version with a flip up Smokey over the time! Lefton Company produced a limited edition of Smokey in a jeep, accompanied by two cubs, as a music box. By far one of the most sought after collectibles featuring Smokey Bear is a steel lunch box and thermos from 1975, by the Aladdin Company. The McCoy Company and Norcrest both produced Smokey Bear ashtrays. American Bisque produced, along with several other companies, their own versions of Smokey as a salt and pepper set.

Much of the Smokey Bear collectibles have found their way into the homes of collectors already, but due to the popularity and new items being made depicting this forest fire preventing advocate, items continue to remain out there just waiting to be discovered by new and old collectors alike!

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