Smokey Bear?

Yesterday we shared Walter J. Breckenridge’s recollection of his trip to the Superior National Forest near Winton, Minnesota to observe the courting ritual of the Spruce Grouse in the spring of 1931. In his autobiography, My Life in Natural History, Breckenridge provided a detailed description of his location and the behaviors exhibited by the grouse that he observed. What is absent however, is the description of another animal that Breckenridge encountered while on his trip…

In a letter dated May 9, 1931, from Walter J. Breckenridge to Thomas Sadler Roberts, Breckenridge wrote to his director about his whereabouts and reported on the progress of finding Spruce Grouse:


“Wednesday morning I found Bill Hanson, district warden, and he proved a fine fellow and very willing to cooperate. I made the Game and Fish Cabin headquarters, living with Bob Grieg. Wednesday Hanson went out with me on two trips out to Ranger Stations where we inquired about Spruce here and hiked about ourselves, looking for them. Cloudy with some snow and rain… “

Breckenridge neglected to mention the furry friend that Bob Grieg had with him at the Game and Fish Cabin headquarters:

Game Warden’s Cabin, Winton, May 1931

Black bear cub with Bob Grieg, Winton, May 1931

Black bear cub with Bob Grieg, Winton, May 1931

Black bear cub, Game Warden’s Cabin, Winton, May 1931

Black bear cub, Game Warden’s Cabin, Winton, May 1931

When I first saw this image of the little black bear cub with the game warden in the Superior National Forest it immediately reminded me of Smokey Bear, the symbol of forest fire prevention and safety. At, you can spend a lot of time –if you are not careful– reading about the history of Smokey Bear and the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history. We won’t go in to the history here, but if you enjoy archival materials such as PSA posters, memorabilia, and even audio recordings from radio announcements dating back to Smokey’s creation in the 1940s, then I suggest you start with the Campaign History and then visit the online exhibit of Smokey’s Journey.

Only you can spend the afternoon in the archives (and prevent forest fires).