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Wildfire prevention in the rural Ozarks

An image of a "showboat" vehicle taken near Rolla in 1937
State Historical Society of Missouri - Springfield Research Center
An image of a "showboat" vehicle taken near Rolla in 1937

Host Haley Frizzle-Green explores the Mark Twain National Forest Historical Photograph Collection

In early January of 1937, the Forestry Division of the newly formed Missouri Conservation Commission, traveled throughout the Ozarks in “showboat” vehicles.

The vehicles were equipped with a portable generator and movie projector, to show films on fire prevention and conservation. One of the first locations to see these showboats was near Piedmont, Missouri, located in the Ozark Foothills of the Mark Twain National Forest. Other showboats visited rural Ozarks communities, providing free conservation films to residents whose homes were without electricity or were far from movie theatres. Within the first six months of the program, over 8,000 Missourians watched fire prevention films presented by showboat vehicles. As a result, public interest in forest fire prevention increased and wildfires decreased, leading to the decline of showboat vehicles across the United States.

The Mark Twain National Forest Historical Photograph collection contains over 700 images featuring Ozarks landscapes, National Forest facilities, and Civilian Conservation Corps projects. The collection also includes an image of a showboat vehicle taken near Rolla in 1937.

To explore this collection and more, visit the Springfield Research Center inside MSU’s Meyer Library or find us online at