Smokey Bear's message "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" was created in 1944 by the Ad Council. Smokey's debut poster was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his birthday. Overseen by the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign, the first poster was illustrated by Albert Staehle. In it Smokey was depicted wearing jeans and a campaign hat, pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. The message underneath reads, "Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!"
Smokey's correct full name is Smokey Bear. In 1952, the songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins had a hit with "Smokey the Bear". The pair said that "the" was added to Smokey's name to keep the song's rhythm. This small change has caused confusion among Smokey fans ever since. The campaign to remind the public of the correct version of the name is almost as old as the Smokey Bear campaign itself. Note that, from the beginning, Smokey's name was intentionally spelled differently from the adjective smoky.
The fictional character Smokey Bear is administered by three entities: the United States Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council. Smokey Bear's name and image are protected by U.S. federal law, the Smokey Bear Act of 1952 (16 U.S.C. 580 (p-2); 18 U.S.C. 711).