JASPER THE BEAR
Simpkins with Jasper. Photo, Phil Snel, Canapress. Maclean’s, 21 March 1994: 55.
“The first time I ever set eyes on him the bear was nailing a “No Hunting” sign to a tree.” James Simpkins. “How I was trapped by Jasper the bear for Maclean’s Magazine.” Maclean’s, 6 July 1963: 15.
Created by James Simpkins, it first appeared as a nameless panel in Maclean’s magazine, 15 November 1948. In the following issue 1 December 1948, it became “Jasper”. It remained a feature in Maclean’s until September 1974 and the magazine began changing its format from a monthly general interest publication to a newsmagazine in 1975. It was syndicated as a cartoon strip by Canada Wide Services from 1967 to 1974 while it continued to appear as a panel in Maclean’s. It was also the subject of five books. Journalist Peter C. Newman remarked that “Jasper” captured our national character so well, that “… someday we may even change our national animal emblem from a beaver to a bear.”
“Jasper” was conceived in response to Maclean editor Jerry Anglin’s request that Simpkins “…develop an animal character that would be distinctively Canadian …”. However, he didn’t want any “Bertie The Beaver” cartoons. The character was initially a polar bear, but Jerry suggested its wry sense of humour was more suited to that of a friendly black bear. He also gave the character its name. As can be seen “Jasper” was much shaggier and behaved more like a bear in the early issues of Maclean’s. As time passed he became much sleeker and behaved more human. Although “Jasper” does not talk to humans, he does talk to other animals and he understands human speech. Simpkins always pictured him as a brown bear, but printing considerations at Maclean’s made “Jasper” black. It was only when he was also portrayed in a strip that he finally appeared in the colour that Simpkins wanted.
In 1962 Jasper was adopted as a mascot by Jasper National Park in Alberta. James designed a “Jasper” with a tartan cap and scarf for the Jasper Curling Club. This designed was emblazoned on their sweaters. He appeared in effigy in all gala town functions. ”Jasper” spanking a tourist appeared on a park poster warning against feeding bears. A statue was erected outside the train station. In 2004 it was moved to Patricia Street because of vandalism. Later it was transferred to the Jasper Sky Tram location where it remains today. A new statue of Jasper has been erected on Connaught Ave. just north of the tourism centre in downtown Jasper. In 2005, in celebration of Alberta’s centennial, a “Jasper the Bear” coin was issued.
A few examples of the large array of “Jasper” merchandise including, buttons, decals, figurines, glasses, greeting cards, mugs, pillows, plaques rugs are shown below.
Content story & Cover book front :
Jasper and the Cubs. Car., James Simpkins. Copp Clark Publishing Co., 1970.
BOOK GRAPHIC COLLECTION:
Content panel & Cover book front & dust jacket front & back:
Jasper. Cart., James Simpkins. Ryerson Press, Oct. 1954.
Content panel & Cover front & back:
Jasper. Cart., James Simpkins. McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 1972.
Content panel & Cover wraparound:
Jasper. Cart., James Simpkins. Burns & MacEachern Ltd./ Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1960.
BOOK TEXT & GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
Content activity & Cover book back Illus., James Simpkins:
Canadian Children’s Annual, 1977. Ed., R. F. Neilson. Art Dir., M. Tach. Potlach Publications, 1976: “Hi! Welcome To Jasper’s Game Forest.” Writ., William Ettridge. Illus., James Simpkins:: 36-39.
Canadian Children’s Annual, 1978. Ed., R. F. Neilson. Art Dir., M. Tach. Potlatch Publications, 1977: “Jasper’s Cubs” Car., James Simpkins: 140.
PERIODICAL TEXT ANTHOLOGY:
Maclean’s, 1 Dec. 1950: “Never Get Friendly With A Friendly Bear.” Writ., Fred Bodsworth. Illus., James Simpkins: 23.
Content article & Cover front:
Maclean’s, 6 July 1963: “How I was trapped by Jasper the bear for Maclean’s Magazine.” Writ., J.Simpkins: 15-17.
Maclean’s 18 February 1956. Illus., James Simpkins.
Maclean’s 27 April 1957 “With Jasper’s apologies to Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.” Illus., James Simpkins.\
“Jasper: Seasons Greetings/Meilleurs voeux, Cart., James Simpkins. no date. 1155 mm h X 860 mm w.
Jasper’s Journey Across Canada/Le Voyage de Jasper à traverse Le Canada. Writ. & Illus., James Simpkins. Irwin Specialties/Irwin Toy Ltd., no date.
“For Your Birthday A Great Big Bear Hug.” Hallmark.
“Going On A Trip? Don’t Forget… Come Back When The Cash Is Gone.” Hallmark.
“Having A Wonderful Time Wish You Were …. HERE!” Hallmark.
“Heard You Were Sick Bear Up Get Well.” Hallmark
“I’m Enjoying A Holiday. Never Caught So Many Fish”. Hallmark.
“Peace on Earth Goodwill to Men and Animals.” Hallmark.
You forgot our date. No information.
S-148. Photo, John Sutton. Double L Color Productions: circa 1960’s.
S-156. Photo, G.L. Gibbons. Double L Color Productions: circa 1960’s.
Maclean’s, 6 July 1963: “How I was trapped by Jasper the bear for Maclean’s Magazine.” Writ., J. Simpkins: 15-17. “Jasper 1948 … Jasper 1963”: 51.
Maclean’s, 21 March 1994: “Grin and bear it”: 55
Taddle Creek, 41, Summer 2018: “Distinctly Canadian.” Writ., Conan Tobias. 33.
Maclean’s 6 July 1963: 51
Maclean’s, Jan. 1969: 74
Maclean’s, May 1973: 64.
Maclean’s, September 1973: 42
Original, pen & ink, watercolour
Canada Wide Syndicate, 19 June 1971
Greeting card, Hallmark
Postcard S-148. Photo, John Sutton. Double L Color Productions: circa 1960’s.
Postcard S-156. Photo, G.L. Gibbons. Double L Color Productions: circa 1960’s.
New Statue. Taddle Creek, 41, Summer 2018: 1