The Story Behind the Star of the Longest-Running Public Service Campaign in American History

The life and times of Smokey the Bear—and the cause he made famous

On Nov. 9, 1976, a local story from Washington, D.C., managed to land in newspapers across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Smokey the Bear, age 26, had died at the National Zoo. He’d gone, the obituary read, to “that great honey tree in the sky.”

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This story first appeared in the May 13, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.