Skip to content



 The United States of America has official mascots, just like other major teams, universities, high school teams and brands do. Well the mascots culture is huge in the US and therefore it makes sense for the government to jump in too and have its official mascots that it uses for various purposes and ministries. Some of these mascots have existed for several hundred years and also some are pretty recent. There have also been animal mascots that have represented the military's academies and various branches of the armed forces dating back to the twentieth century. Some mascots have become very famous symbols of the US. These include the Bald Eagle, Columbia and of course Uncle Sam. These mascots are pretty much famous and anyone can tell that they belong to the US. However, the first instance in which the US government used animal characters as a mascot to advance a cause was most probably during the Second World War and the campaign was known as the Smokey Bear Campaign. Since then, mascots have been much present in the US government.Several Mascots like Lady Liberty are some of the most famous mascots ever to grace the US. Below, we explore some of the mascots that have been used by the US government. Some may be active till to date while others have since been retired from active service and can only be accessed through museums.


  • Woodsy Owl was a Forest Service Mascot unveiled in 1971 to promote an anti-pollution message. This came after a book by Rachel Carson called Silent Spring cautioned the nation of the dangers of pesticides doing massive pollution to the environment. Her book inspired and led to the growth of a movement that culminated in the First Earth Day celebrations in 1970. 

    Woodsy Owl was an anti-pollution owl mascot. He was shaped like a big owl with large brown eyes. He was actually unveiled to help another mascot called Smokey Bear who was majorly concerned with forest fires. The two worked together in spreading their respective messages and are still active in encouraging both adults and children the importance and need to protect forests and all natural resources. Woodsy Owl has also been featured in many comic books and magazines and he remains to be an all time classic.


  • Smokey Bear was also another popular mascot used by the Forest Service which is under the US government. Smokey Bear is an anthropomorphized bear dressed as a Forest ranger. His simplicity and aura is planned to appeal to both adults and children. His famous Only you can prevent forest fires also stands out quite well in addition to his personality.

    Smokey Bear was planned to be a “fire prevention bear”. His campaign was very successful until the then President, President Truman encouraged his use well beyond his planned period. Smokey Bear pants and hat were similar to another mascot called Woodsy Owl who was also a Forest Service mascot. Smokey Bear was also quite popular until  he got his own set of toys, hats, t-shirts, buttons, bookmarks, and other paraphernalia and swag to promote his message. He is still active today. A comic book detailing his life is also in the production stage.


  • Well technically he wasn’t a mascot but he was more of a spokesperson who also doubled up as a mascot for the Bureau of Land Management. He was their anti-littering proponent and his campaign to counter littering was quite popular and peaked during the American Bicentennial in 1976. He was a vocal critic of anti-littering and he went around reminding people not to litter anyhowly and to remember to take care of their environment and surroundings. 

    His tall imposing figure complete with a cowboy hat and a cane made him stand out wherever he went. He transversed several states and places and reminded people how littering was detrimental to the environment and the importance and benefits of doing so. This led to a reduction in littering.

    Well despite his noble initiative, he didn't last long. He was successfully retired and relegated to museums and promptly forgotten everywhere. The Twin Falls County in Idaho do remember him though and the communities there do actually celebrate Johnny Horizon day every May.

  • Mr ZIP

  • The U.S. The Post Office Department which is a US government branch ran a popular campaign in the 1960s using a conspicuous mascot known as Mr ZIP to  inspire people to use ZIP codes on their mails since it was a pretty new concept then. The campaign was aimed at encouraging people to mass adopt zip codes and it was largely successful.

    Mr ZIP was credited for his role in ensuring that most Americans picked up and decided to use zip codes because of his role in campaigning and advocating for them. This campaign was regarded as one of the most successful and it's the reason why all Americans have zip codes and use them regularly.

    After his tenure at the US Post Office Department, he was phased out after zip codes became a norm in the US. He made a brief comeback in 2013 when the US Post Office Department was celebrating its 50th anniversary of the ZIP code system. Majority of the Americans during that time do fondly recall him since he was quite popular. He is no longer active.


  • Sprocket Man was a bicycle safety awareness superhero who was used by the Consumer Product Safety Commision as the official mascot. He was initially a comic hero who was commissioned by Stanford University and a local grassroots organization called Urban Bikeway Design Collaborative. The entire comic depicting Sprocket Man was entirely drawn by a Stanford Student called Louis Saekow.

    Sprocket Man was a darling among cyclists and he went on to gain an almost cult-like following. He went about sensitizing users about the safe use of bicycles, especially in urban areas where there were other road users such as motorists and pedestrians. He briefly fell out of favor with cyclists because the Consumer Product Safety Commision classified adult bicycles as children’s toys which caused a major unrest among the community. 

    His comic was a hit and it went on to be reprinted several times and several modifications accompanied it.His red and blue suit of him holding a sprocket whilst sitting on a bicycle was made in such a way that it resembled another superhero character called Superman because of the same attributes. Mr Sprocket Man is however no longer active because he was retired by his creators.


  • Ben’s guide was a US government mascot that provided kids with educational resources and games to help them learn about how the US government works and also other important topics such as national symbols and holidays. The mascot's full name was Ben Franklin and he was similar to Benjamin Franklin who was one of the founding fathers of the United States. His apparent experience as a printer and also his role in drafting some of the most important founding documents of the United States of America made him the most excellent choice of a governmental mascot for educational purposes.

    The original mascot was released in 1999 and he offered excellent materials and resources to know more about the government functions and how it conducts  its daily duties. His outdated and amateurish website was revamped in 2015 and an updated and polished version was released. He continues to offer materials and knowledge to help kids learn more about the US government. He was named the Greatest Websites for Kids by the American Library Association  in 2016.


    As many government mascots are educational and portray messages in a fun manner, they have been without controversy and below we highlight some challenges they have encountered.


    Government mascots have been accused of wasting taxpayers money and resources and are often viewed as extravagant and wasteful. Since there isn't enough research done to conclude such, this might as well be treated as an inaccurate conclusion which can therefore be misleading. Some mascots have been shown to be quite effective, especially the ones that touch on kids.


    Some mascots have been accused of veering off the cause they are supposed to promote. E.g, Smokey Bear was supposed to raise awareness on the issue of wildfires that occurred in grasslands and other areas outside the forests. Smokey campaign led to a reduction but inadvertently made the forests even more susceptible to out of control wildfires which hadn't happened in the first place.


    Sometimes, the Ad Council, the agency involved in approving and promoting mascots, has been accused of using their robust access to the media to push for a pro-business agenda which does not align with the general public. Also, people have raised issues about using mascots to emphasize on individual responsibility rather than the serious and deep seated problems and issues caused by corporations and government itself.

    Next article Pete the Eagle and Kyla