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 Rudy Andreas Michael Wendelin  (1910 - 2000)



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Lived/Active: Kansas      Known for: illustrations-cartoons, murals

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Artist Rudolph Wendelin helped conceive and draw the U.S. Forest Service  mascot and spokesman "Smokey The Bear" for 40 years.  Mr. Wendelin took  "Smokey" from bear cub to animated protector of U.S. Forests.             

His full name was Rudolph "Rudy" Andreas Michael Wendelin, and he was born in Herndon, Kansas on February 27, 1910,  but grew up in Ludell, Kansas.            
Education: University of Kansas School of Architecture, and art schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.                                
U.S. Forest Service Career:
Wendelin began his career in 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the U.S. Forest Service as a draftsman and illustrator.  He transferred to the Washington D.C. office in 1937.  Serving in the Navy during WWII, he rejoined the USFS again as illustrator back in D.C., helping launch the Smokey Bear project and painting Smokey in  hundreds of situations that highlighted natural resources conservation and the prevention of forest fires.

Mr. Wendelin retired from the Forest  Service in 1973.  The phrase, "Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires", became one of the most familiar and imitated conservation phrases of all  time under Mr. Wendelin's watch.  The gentle Smokey's paws became hands,  Smokey wore blue jeans and his hat was modeled after a forest ranger's - don't forget the shovel. Wendelin's Smokey appeared on government posters, postage stamps, first  day covers and television.  He also appeared in magazines, "spoke" on the  radio and was used in various teaching materials.  He even appeared in a  movie.                                                                    

Wendelin was also a sculptor and painter of landscapes.
Rudolph Wendelin, 90, died on August 31, 2000.  He was in a  vehicle driven by his daughter visiting family in Virginia.  On a  rain-slick road near Norfolk, the driver lost control of the car  striking a truck and a highway divider.  Mr. Wendelin sustained severe injuries and died in a health care facility in Falls Church.              
Wendelin has received many awards for his work. He was presented  with the Medal of Honor by the Daughters of the American Revolution for  his work in popularizing Smokey Bear through his artwork.  In addition to awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he also received the  Horace Hart Award from the graphic arts industry and both Silver and Gold  Smokey Bear Awards from The U.S. Department of Agriculture.               

Nix, Steve.Your Guide to Forestry.                                                                     
Information courtesy of Richard J. Calnan

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Herndon, Kansas, Feb. 27, 1910, and died in Virginia, Aug. 31, 2000, Rudy Wendelin was an illustrator, sculptor and painter, who specialized in landscapes. He grew up in Ludell, Kansas graduating from Herndon Rural High School in 1928.

Studied architecture at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and attended art schools in Milwaukee, WI and Washington, DC .  In 1933, he began his career as an illustrator with the U.S. Forest Service in Milwaukee and then transferred to Washington where he worked on exhibits and illustrations.

After military service during World War II, he rejoined the U.S. Forest Service and helped launch the Smokey Bear project.  He is credited with giving Smokey his friendliness and popularity.  In 1984, he designed a postage stamp with a bear cub clinging to a burnt tree.
Mural in the Rawlins County Historical Museum, Atwood

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Wichita Eagle (Oct. 7, 2000); AskArt,, accessed Dec. 28, 2005;, accessed July 26, 2006.
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

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