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Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!

August 14, 2014

You might have heard that this week marks the 70th birthday of one of the most iconic symbols in American culture: Smokey Bear.

In celebration, we at Priceless Photo Preservation in Ann Arbor, Michigan are posting an older Super 8 film conversion. It is a c. 1972 film clip of the actual bear named Smokey who was the living symbol of the anti-wildfire campaign for many years.

An American black bear cub who in the spring of 1950 was caught in a New Mexico forest fire, Smokey lived at Washington D.C,’s National Zoo for 26 years until his death in 1976.

Some other facts about Smokey:

  • The Smokey campaign was founded in response to a Wartime threat from the Japanese, who used to send balloons to start wildfires.
  • Bambi was the original cartoon character used for the campaign, but Walt Disney only granted the government permission for one year of use.
  • It’s “Smokey Bear,” not “Smokey the Bear.” The latter term entered the American vocabulary after a 1952 hit song. The songwriters added “the” to preserve the song’s cadence.
  • Smokey shares the same birthday (Aug. 9) as actor Sam Elliott, who coincidentally has been the voice of Smokey for many years.
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