Agricultural Library Photo Collection
Documents U.S. History
By Brian Norris
November 7, 1997
The original Smokey
Bear--a bear cub that survived a New Mexico forest fire and became a
renowned symbol of forest fire prevention in the 1940s--is among the 20th
century celebrities featured in a collection of nearly 60,000
historical Forest Service photographs at the National Agricultural Library in
Beltsville, Md. Copies of the images, many dating to the turn of the century,
are available for loan, and reproductions can be obtained for a fee.
NAL is the largest agricultural library in the world and is one of four
national libraries of the United States, with the Library of Congress, the
National Library of Medicine and the
National Library of Education.
NAL is part of the Agricultural Research
Service, chief research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Service Historical Photograph Collection got its start in 1898 when Gifford
Pinchot, first Chief of the U.S. Forest
Service and an avid photographer, ordered his forestry agents throughout
the United States to begin taking photographs of their activities. By the time
World War II began, more than 400,000 photographs had been taken for the
collection. Pinchot added many of his personal photographs from the early 1900s
as well. Since the war, Forest Service employees have continued the practice,
adding tens of thousands of additional photographs to the record.
In addition to the original Smokey the Bear, the Forest Service collection
features photographs of Theodore Roosevelt and other early 20th century
notables. Also included are images of farmers, foresters, miners, cowboys,
scientists, Native Americans and others who helped shape the western United
States, along with pictures of railroads and towns, forests, mountain ranges,
plains, mining operations, forest-related industry, plants and animals. The
images are preserved and managed in NALs
Special Collections Section.
Information on using the Forest Service photograph collection is available
by contacting Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, 10301
Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2351. The Special Collections
Section can be reached by telephone at (301) 504-5876 and by e-mail at
Scientific contact: Brian Norris, National Agricultural Library,
Beltsville, Md. 20705; telephone (301) 504-6778, fax (301) 504-5472, e-mail