SC FORESTRY COMMISSION ARCHIVES

FIRE PREVENTION POSTERS

Posters have been an important part of forest fire prevention advertising since the 1930´s. There has been little change in the fire prevention message, but the posters themselves reflect the constantly changing styles, attitudes, and events in American culture.

Hundreds of different forest fire prevention posters have been produced over the years No complete archive exists and it is doubtful that all posters have even been catalogued.

The most important icon of forest fire prevention is, of course, Smokey Bear. Smokey first appeared on a 1944 poster by Albert Stahle; the bear has been a mainstay of fire prevention poster art ever since. Smokey posters are highly prized by collectors.

The posters shown here are part of the SC Forestry Commission collection.

1949 Transportation Poster

1949
Transportation Poster
Used in advertising frames in buses and trains.

 

1950 prevention

1950
Many early fire prevention posters focused on fires caused by cigarette smoking and campfires.

 

Green forests

1951
This theme was repeated on another poster the following year.

 

cigarette smoking

1952
Continued emphasis on cigarette smoking and campfires.

 

Smokey asking God

1953
Religious symbolism was used frequently in early fire prevention posters.  Note cross on grave in background.

 

good outdoor habits

1955
Another reference to cigarette smoking and campfires. Several posters over the years have used the chalkboard format.

 

Girl Scouts

1956
This poster recognized the Girl Scouts as a partners in forest fire prevention.  A Boy Scout poster was also issued.

 

1957 National poster1951 SCFC poster

1957 (National poster)                 1951 (SCFC poster)

The 1957 national poster is strongly reminiscent of the 1951 SC Forestry Commission poster.

 

play safe

1958
Several other posters over the years are very similar to this one.

 

only you

1959

 

why?

1960
Injured or endangered animals provided an emotional appeal in a number of fire prevention posters.

 

arson

1960
Produced by the Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign and distributed in the south, this is one of several posters featuring artwork in a style frequently associated with Pink Panther cartoons.  (The Pink Panther first appeared in 1964.)

 

Smokey Reading club

1960s
In this undated poster from the 60s, Smokey is promoting summer reading for children.  This is probably a South Carolina modification of a 1959 fire prevention poster.

 

squirrels be careful

1962

 

woods arson

1963
Woods arson has always been the primary theme of the Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.

 

bandaged Smokey praying

1963
Another religious theme, showing Smokey with an injured paw.  Smokey and several other animals have teardrops visible on their faces.

 

A B C's

1963
A-B-C´s of fire prevention was the theme of several posters in the 1960s.

 

Bear blocks

1964
Another A-B-C poster.

 

priceless-worthless

1964
Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.

 

deer""

1965

 

Smokey with shovel

1966
Another version of the A-B-C theme.

 

future in your hands

1966
This poster combined portrait art and cartoon art.

 

Smokey's Friends

1967
The style of this poster is reminiscent of coloring book art.

 

Thanks

1968

 

arson

1968
Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.

 

don't play with matches

1970

 

think before you strike

1970

 

accident or arson

1970
Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.

 

Smokey

1971
Perhaps because Smokey´s message was so well known, this poster only carried his picture.

 

Snoopy

1971
Even Snoopy appeared as an advocate for wildfire prevention.

 

Fire getting away

1972

 

Babes in the woods

1973

 

costumed Smokey

1974
Costumes have been used for Smokey´s personal appearances since the 1950s, but this may be the first time a costumed Smokey appeared on a poster.  (The SC Forestry Commission produced a poster with a costumed Smokey as part of the post-Hurricane Hugo Gimme 12 fire prevention campaign.)

 

Think

1974

 

Grand old Forest

1976
Smokey celebrated the nation´s bicentennial in this poster.

 

trash fires

1977
The message on this poster reflects national statistics. In South Carolina, about 40% of all wildfires are caused by careless burning.

 

Smokey

1977

 

Smokey

1978

 

Smokey with animals

1979

 

1950 Transportation Poster

1950
Transportation Poster
Used in advertising frames in buses and trains.

 

Jak Smyrl posterfather and sonSmokey with little trees

1951
South Carolina artist Jak Smyrl produced these three posters for the SC Forestry Commission.  (Both the Smokey poster and the father-son poster carry the "hand and little tree" imagery from the famous photo by SCFC foresters Nelson Peach and John Witherspoon.)

 

Green forests

1952
The phrase "give us strength" may reflect concern over the Korean War.

 

Shameful watse

1952

 

Bible reference poster

1955
Biblical reference to the book of Deuteronomy.

 

Join Smokey's campaign

1956
This fire prevention poster capitalized on the fact that 1956 was an election year.  In November, Eisenhower was elected to his second term as President of the U.S.

 

Please be careful

1956
Smokey Stand-Up
This piece had a fold-out brace attached to the back allowing the poster to be used as a free-standing display.

 

Thanks folks

1957

 

Religious poster with SmokeySmokey's Commandments

1958
Both these posters reflect Judeo-Christian religious influence.

 

trash fires

1960
Odd-sized transportation poster used in buses and trains.

 

Smokey's debris burning rules

1960

 

protect your forests

1961

 

burning time

1961

 

malicious burner

1962
Another Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign poster focusing on woods arson.

 

please be careful

1963
Southern Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.

 

Smokey standup

1963
This is one of several posters produced with a smaller companion cardboard stand-up.  The stand-ups featured a folding prop on the back to allow display on a desk or table.

 

Smokey on matches

1964
A stand-up (left) shown with its companion poster. While posters were almost always rectangular, many stand-ups were die-cut shapes.

Yours to enjoy not destroy

1964

 

Please!

1965

 

Please standup

1965
This table-top stand-up was also issued as a full sized poster.

 

Family trees

1966
Several posters in the late 60´s used portrait artwork rather than cartoon artwork.  A cardboard stand-up of this poster was also issued.

 

Be my guest

1967
A stand-up of this poster was also issued in 1967.

 

Another ABC poster

1967
Yet another variation on the A-B-C theme.

 

Use fire carefully

1968
This national campaign poster featured a man smoking a pipe.  Such a depiction would be considered highly inappropriate today.

 

Smokey's friends don't play with matches

1969

 

Please

1970

 

Simple trash fire

1970
This poster was one of the first to address fire in the wildland-urban interface.

 

Sculpted Smokey

1971
The artwork on this poster is photographed paper sculpture.

 

Fires burn more than trees

1971
The emotional message of vulnerable baby animals is a recurring theme in fire prevention posters.

 

Smokey matchbook theme.

1972
The matchbook theme has been featured in a number of posters over the years.

 

Smokey pastel poster

1973
Several "soft and pretty" pastel posters were produced in the 70s.  These were especially popular with young children.

 

Bambi

1974?
Bambi was the first animated advocate of wildfire prevention, appearing on a poster in 1944.  While not dated, the poster shown above may have been produced for the 30th anniversary of the 1944 Bambi poster.  Smokey took over fire prevention duties in the 1945 poster campaign.

 

Burning house

1974
Another reminder that wildfires threaten homes, this poster is a photograph of a model house engulfed in flames.

 

Smokey-thanks for listening

1975

 

Don't let a trash fire turn into a forest fire

1976

 

America's history in a tree cookie

1977
This poster was also produced as a paper place mat.

 

Smokey Bic lighter

1978
Although Smokey may not be used to advertise a commercial product, this poster was approved as a forest fire prevention item.

 

How to poster

1978

 

Don't let debris fires get away.

1979


Fire Information/ History and Archives