Q: Smokey Bear -- sometimes called Smokey the Bear -- is celebrating his 75th birthday! The iconic bear was created by the U.S. Forest Service in 1944 as part of an advertising campaign to prevent wildfires. The version of Smokey Bear we know today was created by an artist from Herndon, Kansas. (That's in Rawlins County!) What's the name of this artist who became Smokey's manager and caretaker for 25 years?
A: Rudy Wendelin
Smokey Bear, sometimes called Smokey THE bear, is celebrating his 75th birthday! The iconic bear was created by the U.S. Forest Service in 1944 as part of an advertising campaign to prevent wildfires. The original version of Smokey was created by Albert Staehle. But within a few short years, Smokey's appearance was changed, making him more appealing to children. The softer, more cuddly version of Smokey Bear we know today was created in the late 1940s by Rudy Wendelin, an artist for the U.S. Forest Service. Wendelin grew up in Herndon, Kansas, and later studied architecture at the University of Kansas. In 1949, he became the full-time artist for the Smokey Bear ad campaign. He was considered Smokey's manager and caretaker for the next 25 years. Among all the Smokey Bear artists, Wendelin was perhaps the most prominent. His rendering of Smokey helped humanize and soften the character. It was under Wendelin's care that Smokey's fire prevention message became, "Only you can prevent forest fires." In 2001, the message was updated to, "Only you can prevent wildfires." By 1952, Smokey Bear had attracted considerable commercial interest, so the United States Congress passed the Smokey Bear Act to remove the character from the public domain and place it under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The act provided for the use of Smokey's royalties for continued education on the subject of forest wildfire prevention.