20¢ Fire Prevention
Issue Date: August 13, 1984
City: Capitan, NM
Printed By: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
This stamp honors the 40th anniversary of the mascot and familiar symbol of the U.S. Forest Service. Smokey Bear's face was widely used in the Forest Service's efforts to prevent forest fires.
Smokey Bear Created To Join The War Effort
On August 9, 1944, the U.S. Forest Service created Smokey Bear to encourage people to prevent forest fires.
Though forest fires had long been an issue, America’s involvement in World War II made fighting these fires more difficult. Most able-bodied men were fighting overseas, so there weren’t enough young men to fight fires. In 1942 the Forest Service used Disney characters from the film Bambi on colorful posters to raise awareness on how to prevent forest fires. But those characters could only be used for a year, so the forest service needed their own mascot.
In 1944 they created Smokey Bear, named after New York City firefighter “Smokey” Joe Martin. The first poster was designed by Albert Staehle and pictured Smokey pouring a bucket of water on a campfire with the message “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!” Smokey quickly became a household name, with toy companies producing teddy bears and a variety of posters hanging across the country.
Months later, the Japanese began using forest fires to attack the U.S. Between November 1944 and April 1945 they launched more than 9,000 fire balloons into the jet stream, About 10% of those reached the U.S., with one of them claiming six lives. Smokey’s warnings likely helped save many other forest fires from occurring.
Smokey became a beloved symbol in 1950 when a black bear cub was discovered clinging to the top of a tree surrounded by a forest fire in New Mexico. That bear (pictured on U.S. #2096 above) was named Smokey and spent the rest of his life at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.