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Smokejumpers Collection, 1949-1992

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-2021-047

Content Description

This collection contains items relating to the Smokejumpers program. Examples of materials include a booklet, VHS tapes, negatives, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library exhibit captions, and a movie poster. Materials are dated 1949-1992 and in good condition.


  • 1949 - 1992

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public without restriction. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to duplicate or publish material from this collection must be obtained from the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Biographical / Historical

The smokejumping program’s first round of experimentation started in 1939 in the Pacific Northwest Region. After its proven success, the program spread to other states across the country. As of 2019, there are seven active US Forest Service smokejumping bases: McCall and Grangeville, Idaho; Redding, California; West Yellowstone and Missoula, Montana; Winthrop, Washington; Redmond, Oregon.

Silas Raymond Thompson Jr., a native Charlottean, was one of the 13 men who died smokejumping the Mann Gulch fire in Montana. The fire began on August 5, 1949 at approximately 12:30pm. By about 3:10pm, the smokejumpers had gathered materials and expected the fire to be a routine job. LG Walker, a retired doctor from Charlotte, and his friend, Dan Morrill, produced a documentary titled Death at Mann Gulch in efforts to capture the effect of one man’s death on the Charlotte community. There is a marker in Mann Gulch, noting the place in which Thompson lost his life smokejumping in 1949.

Women also served as smokejumpers, although it took time for that to be accepted. Deanne Shulman, the first female smokejumper, had her first jump in 1981 in Idaho. Her journey to this point wasn’t easy. After passing a series of intense fitness tests in 1979, she did not meet the height and weight requirement and the program rejected her. Devastated, she decided to file an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint, which ultimately allowed her another chance to become a smokejumper in 1981. Shulman continued to work hard and blaze a path for other women in the fire fighting field.


0.41 Linear Feet

0.44 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Founded in 1934 by TV Pearson (the US Forest Service Intermountain Regional Forester), the smokejumping program enables firefighters to quickly contain forest fires by parachuting out of airplanes and fighting fires on rugged terrain. The first official fire jump occurred in 1940 overtop the Nez Pierce National Forest in Idaho. Smokejumpers require intense training to ensure they are equipped for exiting procedures, parachute maneuvering/retrieval, emergencies, and tree climbing. The smokejumping program remains a vital national resource, especially in high-risk wildfire states like California and Alaska.

This collection contains materials related to the Smokejumpers program, such as movie posters, photographic negatives, booklets, exhibit documentation, and VHS tapes. Materials are dated 1949-1992 and in good condition.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The immediate source and date of acquisition for this collection is unknown.


Aney, Kathy. Breaking barriers from 1,500 feet. East Oregonian. Accessed April 2019.

Smokejumpers. Forest Service. Accessed April 2019.

Lewis, Jamie. Further Reflections on Mann Gulch. Forest History Society. Accessed April 2019.

Walien, Dale. Drawn to Flame: Women Forged by Wildfire. National Forests Magazine. Summer/Fall 2017 Issue. Accessed April 2019.

Condition Description

Materials are in good condition

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of this collection was completed by Sydney Carroll.

Smokejumpers Collection, 1949-1992
In Progress
Sydney Carroll
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Repository

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library-Main
310 N. Tryon Street
Charlotte NC 28202 USA