The Wisconsin DNR Mercer Ranger Station has loaned the library part of its collection of vintage fire prevention posters for a display in July and August. Visitors are invited to stop by during normal library hours to see the display of 12 Smokey Bear posters along with Mercer’s original Smokey Bear costume head and photos telling the story of Mercer’s role in creating a ‘real walking and talking’ Smokey Bear to teach children about wildfire prevention.
The display also includes images of Wisconsin’s unofficial fire prevention mascot, Torchy Timberloss. According to a post by the Wisconsin DNR, Torchy was originally created by Harry Allman, a draftsman with the Protection Headquarters in Tomahawk. He was never formally adopted as a fire prevention mascot, but appeared on posters, in publications, and on fire control hard hats.
Mercer’s role in Smokey Bear’s history was explored by Mercer School students John Klopatek and Heather Cihak in their 2012 book, Smokey’s First Steps. Mercer residents and employees of the Wisconsin Conservation Department were the first to create a Smokey Bear costume that brought this important fire prevention symbol to life. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also shared Mercer’s role in Smokey’s history in an article from the August 4, 2019, edition, 75 Years of Smokey.
The display will be available to view during normal library hours through August 2019.