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 16, in which we examine Tim Burr.
In July 1949 the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company debuted the first issue of its new company-wide magazine. Weyerhaeuser Magazine was targeted to company employees and featured company news across the various branches, as well as features on Weyerhaeuser employees both on the job and away from work. The inaugural issue of the magazine also introduced to the world a brilliantly-named character: Mr. Tim Burr.
Tim’s purpose was to promote workplace safety, similar to previously profiled characters like Herman I. Cautious and Paula Bunyan. But unlike Herman and Paula, who were committed examples of proper workplace behavior, Tim was a bit more of a daydreaming klutz. While a good-natured worker, Tim continually ran into trouble while on the job.
The brief item announcing his introduction in Weyerhaeuser Magazine describes him as follows: “It’s not that he isn’t a good worker—he is. The unfortunate thing about Tim is that he’s a dope when it comes to safety.”
In his first appearance, Tim falls down the stairs at work while dreaming of an upcoming vacation. In subsequent appearances he gets stuck in sawmill machinery, runs into trouble while self-administering first aid, forgets to wear a gas mask at an inopportune moment, and gets hit by a falling tree. The five-panel Tim Burr comic strips always ended with Tim either in the infirmary or covered in bandages (usually both).
The Tim Burr comics were drawn by artist Jack Keeler, who spent much of his early career in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to some information provided by Keeler’s grand-nephew we now know a lot more about the artist’s life and work.
Keeler was born in Wyoming in 1923 but moved with his family a few years later to Everett, Washington. In the early 1940s he attended the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Following service in World War II, Keeler went to work as a comic artist. His work appeared alongside icons such as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in various 1940s comics (Keeler created characters such as Soapy Sam, Junior Genius, and the Rosebud Sisters).
During the time of Tim Burr, Keeler was working for an advertising agency in Tacoma, Washington. In 1950 he moved to Los Angeles and then later to New York where he achieved great success in the advertising industry. One of the original “Mad Men,” Keeler was the creative genius behind Folgers Coffee campaigns in the 1960s, and also did work for the 1967 Chevy Camaro, Western Airlines, Heinz Ketchup, and many other brands.
As for Tim Burr, his career proved to be much, much shorter. After taking a physical beating for a year, Tim made his final appearance in the May 1950 issue of Weyerhaeuser Magazine (we assume this coincides with Keeler’s departure from the Tacoma area). In the following issue (August 1950) a new safety character was introduced (stay tuned!), drawn by a new artist. A short item stated: “Tim Burr has retired to a well-deserved rest.”
Like all our Forgotten Characters, though, Tim continues to live on here in the Forest History Society Library and Archives. Continue below for more classic Tim Burr comics drawn by Jack Keeler.