On Aug. 9, 1944, Smokey Bear was born.
More accurately, that’s when he was authorized by the U.S. Forest Service to be used in an advertising campaign addressing wildfire concerns during World War II. Now, 75 years later, the bear is still around in what is the longest public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.
His was not the first face of the campaign. Disney’s Bambi had been featured on posters with the words “Please Mister, Don’t Be Careless” during a yearlong lease of the character. A forest fire figures prominently near the beginning of the 1942 animated Disney classic.
In the 1940s, an average of 30 million acres burned every year. A wartime concern was that fires might be started by the enemy attacking the U.S. mainland.