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History of the Smiley Face

Richard Ball, co-owner of an advertising and public relations firm in Worcester, designed the Smiley Face in 1963 to help ease the acrimonious aftermath following the merger of two insurance companies.

Harvey Richard Ball

A vice president ordered a "friendship campaign" to ease tensions between the bickering workers and hired Richard Ball to come up with a suitable graphic for a button.

Smiley Face creator Harvey Ball in his Worcester office in 1998.
(AP Photo)
"I made a circle with a smile for a mouth on yellow paper, because it was sunshiny and bright," he recalled in a 1996 interview with The Associated Press. Turning the drawing upside down, the smile became a frown. Deciding that wouldn't do, Ball added two eyes and the Smiley Face was born.

"There are two ways to go about it," he said. "You can take a compass and draw a perfect circle and make two perfect eyes as neat as can be. "Or you can do it freehand and have some fun with it. Like I did," Ball said. "Give it character."

Harvey Ball died in April 2001, survived by his wife and 3 kids.

Harvey Ball: “Never in the history of mankind or art has any single piece of art gotten such widespread favor, pleasure, enjoyment, and nothing has ever been so simply done and so easily understood in art.”

The Peace Symbol

The smiley face button fad took root in the early 1970s.
Hot pink, orange and yellow smiley buttons
(eBay photo)
In September of 1970 (two Spanish brothers from Philly, Murray and Bernard Spain) were casting about for some peace-like symbol with general appeal, they recalled seeing the smiley faces floating around for years in the advertising business and thus created the Smiley Button. It was a huge hit. By the end of 1972 it was estimated that over 50 million buttons were sold.

The Smiley Stamp

The 33 cent U.S. Stamp issued in 1999
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the first smiley face postage stamp in Worcester on WSD (World Smile Day) 1999. World Smile Day was started in 1999 by Harvey Ball. The WSD (World Smile Day) committee includes members from the Worcester Historical Museum, the City of Worcester, the Office of Congressman Jim McGovern and the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation.

Harvey Ball dies, April 12 2001
The Straight Dope, "Who invented the Smiley Face?"
Harvey Ball's "The World Smile Organization"
Press release, US Post commemorates with a smiley stamp
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