Forgotten (Safety) Characters from Forest History: Herman I. Cautious and Paula Bunyan
Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 13, in which we examine Herman I. Cautious and Paula Bunyan.
The first week of May marks the annual occurrence of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. Sponsored by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), NAOSH Week is intended to raise awareness about occupational safety, health and the environment. In honor of NAOSH week, and in the spirit of workplace safety, Peeling Back the Bark brings you not one, but two new forgotten characters of forest history.
In early 1960, the Pacific Plywood Company of Dillard, Oregon, launched an innovative new safety program. Under the slogan “Caution Pays You,” the new program awarded employees for eliminating workplace accidents. Accident-free years would bring cash awards, based on money collected from monthly contributions into a Safety Dividend Account plan. To help launch this new safety program, a promotional character was introduced: Herman I. (Izzy) Cautious.
While his name was a basic play on a safety question (“her man, is he cautious?”), there was no doubt about Herman’s commitment to workplace health. Always safely decked out in hardhat and gloves, Herman appeared on posters and signs around the plant to raise awareness for the program. His image was accompanied by the “Caution Pays You” slogan, which was trademarked in 1960.
The idea to use monetary rewards to reduce accidents came from Pacific Plywood Company’s Safety Director Bob Young. He and others at the company had big plans for the program. An article in the May 1960 issue of The Lumberman stated, “Considerable interest has been shown in the plan by outside industries, and many inquiries have been made about its operation even before it has been started.” It’s unknown how much interest was shown in the Herman Cautious character, though. He was used on company safety awards for a short time, but then appeared to quickly vanish from the public eye.
Herman Cautious wasn’t the only hardhat-wearing forest-related safety character to fade from view in the early 1960s. The U.S. Forest Service has a forgotten safety character of its own: Paula Bunyan. Paula, drawn by legendary Forest Service artist Rudy Wendelin, was presented as the “Guardian of Safety” for the agency.
We’ll let the official backstory on Paula speak for itself: “She is the daughter of Paul Bunyan, the legendary, swashbuckling, and sometimes unsafe north woods hero. Being a woman, Paula knew how to get her message across to her father and converted him to a safety conscious individual without impairing his tremendous production. This spread his fame all the more. We feel the modern day forester is susceptible to the wiles of such a safety symbol.”
The remaining evidence is scant, but Paula – and her “SURE” way to safety – appeared on USFS safety and accident statistics charts at least through the early 1960s. Paula, of course, is just one very small piece of Wendelin’s fantastic safety-related artwork. Selections from his significant body of workplace safety illustrations and posters have been previously featured on Peeling Back the Bark. For even more, keep an eye on the FHS Twitter feed, as we will feature Wendelin safety art classics throughout the week. Stay safe out there folks!
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Now I know why the old Forest Service safety medal that I bought on eBay says “Paula says”!