The power of a smile is unlimited… A smile is contagious. It is entertainment and medicine. It is food for friendship. It is vital to business associations and to society.Mutualite Magazine, January 3, 1964
In 1963, Worcester Mutual Insurance Company, a subsidy of State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, purchased Guarantee Mutual Company of Ohio and became Worcester-Guarantee. To counteract low employee moral caused by the corporate merger company launched a “smile campaign.”
Joy Young, assistant director of sales and marketing, contacted Harvey Ball, a freelance commercial artist, and asked him to create a little smile that could be used on buttons, desk cards, and posters. Ball drew a smile. Not satisfied with the result he added two eyes, creating a smiley face.
On January 3, 1964 Worcester-Guarantee launched its internal campaign introducing Ball’s smiley face to its employees. This simple smile would eventually become familiar to millions of people world-wide and become a pop culture icon.
In 1963, State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Worcester faced a problem. The Worcester-based firm had purchased Guarantee Mutual Company of Ohio the previous year to work with Worcester Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a State Mutual subsidiary.
Low employee morale in the merged companies prompted State Mutual Vice President John Adam, Jr. to suggest a “friendship campaign.” He asked Joy Young, Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing, to develop something.
Young turned to Worcester freelance artist Harvey Ball, requesting he create a little smile to be used on buttons, desk cards and posters. Ball drew a smile but, not satisfied with the result; he added two eyes, making a smiley face. The whole drawing, he recalled later, took ten minutes. He was paid $240 for the entire campaign, and never received any further profit from his smiley face design.
Today, State Mutual is Allmerica Financial, and Worcester Mutual Fire Insurance is no longer a subsidiary of State Mutual. Now called Worcester Insurance Company, it still uses the smiley face on its promotional material.
The smiley face attained a life of its own well beyond the company’s walls. Harvey Ball’s design sparked a fad that swept the nation in the early 1970s. By 1971, smiley face was the hottest selling image in the country: an estimated fifty million smiley buttons alone had been sold, and the image appeared on countless other products as well.
Eventually, smiley’s popularity began to wane, and by the mid-1970s the fad was over. The image never entirely disappeared though, and began to make a significant comeback in the late 1980s, with the resurgence of sixties-and seventies-inspired symbols, fashions, and music. Smiley’s popularity continues today, its appeal both universal and enduring.
About Harvey Ball
Harvey Ball (1921-2001) was born and raised in Worcester. He attended South High School, where he was especially interested in art. In his third year of high school, he apprenticed himself to a local sign painter, who taught him how to create visual images with a strong impact.
In 1940 Harvey won a scholarship to attend Worcester Art Museum school, and received training in the fine arts. Following service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Ball returned to Worcester where he worked for a local advertising agency. In 1959 he started his own business, Harvey Ball Advertising. He had completed other projects for State Mutual before receiving the smiley face commission.
Harvey founded the World Smile Corporation, which licenses smiley’s and organizes World Smile Day on the first Friday in October. Although Harvey died in 2001, World Smile Day continues to raise money for the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, a non-profit charitable trust which supports children’s causes.
World Smile Day is held on the first Friday of October each year and is a day dedicated to “good cheer and good works.” The catch phrase for the day is “Do an act of kindness-help one person smile.”
The Harvey Ball Smile Award
The Harvey Ball Smile Award was created by Worcester Historical Museum in 2001. The “Harvey” pays tribute to Harvey Ball (1921-2001), creator of the smiley face and World Smile Day, by honoring an individual, organization, or group of individuals whose goodwill has made a difference to the City of Worcester.
2018 Cliff Rucker
2017 Patty Eppinger
2016 Mark and Janice Fuller
2015 Canal District Alliance
2014 Charles P. Ball
2013 Mary and Warner Fletcher
2012 Michael V. O’Brien
2011 Myles and Jean McDonough
2010 The Crowley Family
2009 Mary DeFeudis
2008 Jane Petrella
2007 Timothy P. Murray
2006 Richard B. Kennedy
2005 Charles F. Monahan, Jr.
2004 John W. Spillane
2003 Leslie Courtney
2002 Denis Leary
2001 Allen W. Fletcher
The Ballad of Harvey Ball
Words and music by Charlie Ball c 1998
Give A Little Giggle, Grin A Little Grin Do Your Imitation of A Smiley Face Pin Open Up Your Heart And Let the Sun Shine In Then Sare IT with Your Neighbros and Your Next of Kin Share It With Your Neighbros And Your Next of Kin
1. Once There Were Some People Who Were Feeling Kind Of Blue So They Called Up Harvey Ball, He Knew Exactly What to Do He Drew A Smiley Face, He Made It Yellow Too It was Sunny, It was Simple And He Said “I’m Through” (Now).
2. Well The People Got Excited When They Saw What He Had Done So They Made Up Smiley Buttons And They Handed Out A Ton Which Went Around The World Like The World Goes Round The Sun For A Smile Begets Another So There’s Never Just One (So).
3. Well That’s A Little Story Of How Smiley Came To Be Back In December Of 1963 Call The Guiness Book Of Records Tell Them “Quick Come See” The Happiest Face In All of History (And).
4. O The Moral Of The Story Is To Help The World To Smile You Do An Act Of Kindness, You Go The Extra Mile And What You Do Comes Back To You In Just A Little While For Goodness Is Contagious And It’s Never Out Of Style (So).
Harvey Ball (1921-2001) was born and raised in Worcester. His father operated a cigar shop at Lincoln Square near the court house, and later worked as a watchman at the Melville Shoe company warehouse on Hammond Street. Ball attended South High School where he was especially interested in art. In his junior year he apprenticed himself to a local sign painter who taught him how to create visual images with strong impact. He won a scholarship to attend the Worcester Art Museum School in 1940, where he received training in fine arts. In his view, working at the sign shop may have been better preparation for his commercial art career than the formal training he received at the Worcester Art Museum School.
Following service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Ball returned to Worcester where he worked for a local ad agency. In 1959, he started his own business, Harvey Ball Advertising. As a freelance artist, he had completed other projects for State Mutual and its affiliates before receiving the smiley face commission in December of 1963. His $240 fee for the entire campaign included $45 for creation of the button. He never realized any further profit on his smiley face design. In 1963, State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, now All America, faced a problem. The Worcester-based firm had purchased Guarantee Mutual Company of Ohio the previous year to work in conjunction with a State Mutual subsidiary, Worcester Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Low employee morale created by reorganization in the merged companies prompted State Mutual Vice-President John Adam, Jr., to suggest a “friendship campaign.” Adam assigned the task of developing the campaign to Joy Young, assistant director of sales and marketing for the Worcester-Guarantee companies.
Young turned to Harvey Ball, a freelance commercial artist, and asked him to create a little smile that could be used on buttons, desk cards, and posters. Ball drew a smile. Not satisfied with the result, he added two eyes, making a smile face. The whole drawing, he recalled later, took ten minutes.
The Worcester-Guarantee companies launched the campaign in 1964, distributing the initial order of 100 smile buttons to their representatives. Agents and clients enthusiastically responded to the yellow buttons; thereafter Young reordered in lots of 10,000. By about 1978 or 1979, however, the campaign had run its course and the smile face symbol was retired.
Others have tried to take credit for smiley’s creation. A smiling face image was reported to have been used in 1964 to promote a New York City radio station. David Stern, a Seattle, Washington, advertising executive claimed to have created the icon for a bank promotion in 1967. When questioned by reporters in 1993, however, he recanted his story. Bernard and Murray Spain of Traffic Stoppers Inc. appeared on the television program “What’s My Line” in 1971 asserting that they had made the symbol. None of these claims, however, refutes Harvey Ball’s documented Worcester authorship of the smiley face.
Ball continued to work as a graphic designer in Worcester until his death in April 2001. He was also a career military man, retiring from the Army National Guard in 1979 after thirty-seven years of service. In 1990, while campaigning for the Republican write-in candidate for state representative he promoted himself as the creator of the smiley face.
Smiley attained a life of its own well beyond corporate walls. Harvey Ball’s design sparked a fad that swept the nation in the early 1970s and became a symbol for a generation of Americans.
What are the elements of an authentic Worcester-made smiley face? The icon’s playfulness comes from Harvey Ball’s freehand drawing of the features. As he explained, “I had a choice. …Do I use a compass to draw the smile and two perfect dots for the eyes? …Nah, do it freely. Give it some character.”
Did you know that Worcester is not only the birthplace of barbed wire and the monkey wrench, but of smiley face and the space suit?
WHM in the News
“Wild and Precious’ at Worcester Historical Museum June 26” – Telegram & Gazette, 06.25.2014
“Wild and Precious’ performance invites Worcester to celebrate personal diversity” – Masslive.com, 06.25.2014
“Remembering Where We Came From” – Worcester Magazine, 06.19.2014
“Survivors Recall The Devastation Of The 1953 Worcester Tornado” – WGBH 89.7, Curiosity Desk, 06.13.2014
“Free Vacation Week Fun – Dive into Worcester History” – MassMoms.com, 04.19.2014
“Author details how Revolution took root in Worcester” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 03.13.2014
“Two minutes with Ray Raphael” – Worcester Magazine, 03.06.2014
“Favorite Places: Worcester Historical Museum’s Salisbury Mansion” – Masslive.com, 02.17.2014
“Plenty to keep Kids Busy” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 02.16.2014
“Congress Alley mural to reflect creative spirit of Worcester’s ‘hippie haven” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 02.07.2014
“World Series Trophy to make Worcester appearance” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 01.30.2014
“Worcester celebrates half-century of Smiley” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 01.12.2014
“5 ways to beat the heat” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 07.16.2013
“On Gettysburg anniversary, remembering Col. George Ward, Worcester’s brave soldier” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 07.02.2013
“Worcester Historical Museum exhibit chronicles region’s catastrophies” – MetroDaily West, 06.23.2013
“Worcester Residents Invited to Share Stories of Past Storms” – GoLocalWorcester, 04.24.2013
“College Students Reimagine Worcester’s Salisbury Mansion” – GoLocalWorcester, 04.10.2013
“New Life In An Old Setting: Worcester’s Canal District Embarks On A New Era” – Worcester Business Journal, 04.01.2013
“PowerPlayer: Worcester Historical Museum’s Bill Wallace” – GoLocalWorcester, 03.25.2013
“City hopes rejuvenating districts will boost tourism” – Boston Globe, 03.24.2013
“Worcester cinema screening new film to celebrate black history month” – New England Cable News, 02.26.2013
“Alden Gallery Opens at Worcester Historical Museum” – GoLocalWorcester, 02.23.2013
“New exhibit opening at Worcester Historical Museum” – New England Cable News, 02.20.2013
“Go! Alden Family Gallery” - Telegram.com, 02.21.2013
“The past comes alive at revamped Worcester Historical Museum” – MetroWest Daily, 02.17.13
“Historical Museum interactive exhibit revisits Worcester’s past” – Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 02.15.13
“Interactive gallery invites families to rediscover Worcester’s past” – Worcester Magazine, 02.13.2013
“New Gallery at Worcester Historical Museum” – WICN 90.5 FM, Inquiry with Mark Lynch, 02.13.2013
Do you know who created the yellow Smiley Face? No, it wasn’t Forrest Gump.
The exhibit, An American Icon, explored the origins of the iconic yellow Smile Face and its progression in American pop culture.
In 1963, Worcester Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a subsidiary of State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, purchased Guarantee Mutual Company of Ohio. To counteract low employee morale caused by corporate reorganization, the company launched a “friendship campaign.” Joy Young, assistant director of sales and marketing, contacted Harvey Ball, a local freelance commercial artist, and asked him to create a little smile that could be used on buttons, desk cards, and posters. Ball drew a smile. Not satisfied with the result, he added two eyes, creating a smiley face.
Soon Harvey Ball’s Smiley became more famous than the Mona Lisa. A true American icon was born…right here in Worcester.
Worcester is located in Central Massachusetts, and is known as the “heart of the Commonwealth.” Worcester was established as a town on June 14, 1722, chosen the shire town or county seat of Worcester County in 1731, and incorporated as a city on February 29, 1848.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did Worcester get its name?
No one knows for sure, but there are two most prevalent opinions. Some believe the name Worcester comes from the Saxon Wegeraceaster, meaning war castle, while others say that the city may be named after the Battle of Worcester (UK) in 1651.
What are the seven hills of Worcester?
1) Pakachoag (Mount St. James) – where the largest of Nipmuck Indians lived.
2) Sagatabscot (Union Hill) – the second settlement, where Digory Sargent was killed in his home by Indians in 1701.
3) Hancock Hill – Once owned by John Hancock.
4) Chandler Hill (Belmosy Hill) – site of the first reservoir, the oldest Armenian Church in the United States, and East Park.
5) Green Hill – ancestral home of the Green family since 1755, now a public park.
6) Bancroft Hill – named for the well-known historian, George Bancroft.
7) Newton Hill – farmland that was purchased by the city for a public park.
Worcester Facts and Firsts
Did you know that there were three attempted settlements of Worcester?
#1- Worcester was first settled under the Indian name of Quinsigamond in 1673. At the start of King Philip’s War, the settlement was abandoned.
#2- It was at the second attempted settlement that the name “Worcester” meaning “war-castle” was adopted. This settlement was also abandoned in 1701.
#3- The third and permanent settlement dates from 1713. Worcester was incorporated a town in 1722 and a city in 1848.
Did you know about these famous firsts?
- The Declaration of Independence was first publicly read in Massachusetts by Isaiah Thomas in Worcester in July 1776.
- The monkey wrench was invented by Loring Coes of the Coes Knife Company in 1840.
- Worcester resident Charles Thurber patented the first modern-day typewriter in 1843.
- The first national convention of women advocating women’s suffrage was held in Worcester on October 23 and 24, 1850.
- In 1854, Elm Park was the first purchase of land for a public park in the United States.
- Worcester resident Joshua Stoddard invented the steam calliope in 1855.
- J. Lee Richmond of the Worcesters pitched the first perfect game in major league baseball history on June 12, 1880.
- Worcester resident Henry Perky became the first to mass produce shredded wheat in 1895.
- Albert A. Michelson, chairman of Clark University’s Physics Department, named America’s first Nobel Prize Winner in 1902.
- Dr. Robert H. Goddard of Clark University patented the first liquid fuel rocket in 1914.
- Harvey Ball designed the world famous Smiley face in 1963.