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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.

Smiley Face

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About Smiley 
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.

Award recipients

 

2019 Dale LaPage
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

Chorus: 

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).

Chorus

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).

Chorus

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).

Chorus

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).

Chorus

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.”

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MUSEUM CELEBRATIONS

THE HARVEY BALL

Every year since 2001, Worcester Historical Museum has presented “The Harvey Ball Smile Award” to a local individual, group, or organization responsible for helping the entire community smile. The evening also celebrates Harvey Ball and his legacy as the creator of the iconic smiley face, the international icon for happiness and good.  The Harvey Ball on October 2, 2020, recognized 20 community partners on the 20th anniversary of “The Harvey.”

 

CELEBRATING WOMEN 1OO – PRETTY POWERFUL PROGRAM SERIES

In anticipation of Worcester Historical Museum’s landmark exhibition, PRETTY POWERFUL: 100 Years of Voting & Style will celebrate the centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote through fashion and the changing roles of women. Programs will continue through spring 2021 with a grand capstone commemoration celebrating a century of women’s social and political activism in Worcester and beyond.

 

The PRETTY POWERFUL Little Black Dress

Celebrate the iconic LITTLE BLACK DRESS. Featuring fascinating historical factoids and special appearances by fashion designers, artists, and fashionistas. Learn secrets on how to glam up your LBD for the holidays and beyond. Presented by the Worcester Historical Museum on November 18, 2020, the program includes powerful photos, videos, stories, and voices.

 

ANITA: Speaking Truth to Power, A Post-Film Discussion

The Anita Hill conversation continues! Nearly three decades after she accused Clarence Thomas of inappropriate behavior at the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court Senate confirmation process, Anita Hill is at the center of an inspiring discussion on women’s rights, equality, harassment in the workplace, and relations between genders and races. Presented on May 23, 2020, by Worcester Historical Museum in partnership with Worcester Black History Project, Pathways for Change, Inc., and the City of Worcester’s Committee on the Status of Women as part of the Museum’s PRETTY POWERFUL Program Series.

 

After Suffrage: The Campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920-2020

Historian, teacher, and author Barbara Berenson (served as a Senior Attorney at the Massachusetts. Supreme Judicial Court from 2004 – 2019) gave an informative and compelling presentation on milestone moments related to women’s rights to vote throughout the past 100 years. Presented on June 25, 2020, it includes powerful photos, stories, and voices. Presented in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Worcester Area.

 

To the Wrongs that Need Resistance: The Uneasy Path to American Women’s Suffrage

Despite what popular histories might tell us, the road to the 19th Amendment in the US was neither straight nor smooth. Nor was it the triumph of a few especially strong leaders. In this talk, Holy Cross History Professor Stephanie Yuhl (Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies) explores the wide array of diverse women who, despite internal and external tensions, created a powerful movement for women’s full citizenship and personhood, symbolized in the right to vote. Presented on July 30, 2020, in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Worcester Area.

  

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS

Worcester Historical Museum partners with the Worcester public to chronicle and better understand our community histories. From the Latino History Project of Worcester, LGBTQ+ Worcester FOR THE RECORD, and the Worcester Black History Project, WHM and our community partners work to ensure that we all take our place in history. The following programs present important research-driven storytelling from these community history projects. YOUR history matters. 

 

LATINO HISTORY PROJECT OF WORCESTER

Policing and Race in Worcester: The Story of Cristino Hernandez, A Latino Perspective

Unrest continues across our country with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. These incidents renew scrutiny on older cases including the July 1993 death of Cristino Hernandez at the hands of the Worcester Police. Severely beaten, Hernandez’s incident was partially captured on video similar to the Rodney King tape. Aldo Garcia Guevara (Prof. of History at Worcester State University) joins Ricky Escobar (Hernandez’s nephew), Dr. Hector E. Piñero (Attorney), Joseph S. Hennessy (Civil Rights Lawyer and former police officer), and Hon. Judge Margaret R. Guzman to remind the public that police brutality has been going on for years and affects Latinos, Blacks, and other people of color as well.

 

BLACK HISTORY PROJECT OF WORCESTER

Worcester People of Color – Unseen Photos, 1897-1917

Hundreds of images depict the everyday lives of Worcester’s Black Worcester residents, many of whom resided in the Beaver Brook neighborhood with their children, neighbors, and loved ones. In 2003 Charlton resident, Frank Morrill purchased a collection of thousands of images taken by local photographer William Bullard between 1897 and 1917. A significant number of those photographs were of Black Worcester residents—a surprising find considering that people of color made up 1% of the city’s population at that time. Join the Worcester Black History Project, Worcester Historical Museum, and Frank Morrill for a discussion and exploration of Bullard’s photographs and the Worcester people whose lives he documented.

 

COVID-19 and the Worcester Black Community     

Data suggests that Black and Latinx communities make up a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths. Though 5% of Worcester County’s population is Black, they represent 10% of the people seen at Worcester hospitals with COVID-19. Similarly, 11% of Worcester County‘s population is Latino, yet they represent 30% of people seen with COVID-19. Dr. Jennifer Bradford, who specializes in Family Medicine, Public Health, and General Preventive Medicine at UMASS Memorial, joined Black leaders on May 20, 2020, to examine these issues. 

 

Black and Blue:  Policing While Black

George Floyd’s death sparked widespread protests in the U.S. over police abuse. On September 1, 2020, Worcester Historical Museum presented a forum on race and policing and the double consciousness of being a Black police officer for an institution that is seen as racist and dangerous to the Black community. The panel includes Dr. Charlotte Haller (Prof. and Chair of History and Political Science at Worcester State University), Prof. Hernandez Stroud (Brennan Center of Justice at NYU School of Law), police officers and captains, and Ethical Society of Police board members who share reactions to recent protests, explore perceptions of police violence, and discuss solutions to what is required to achieve systemic change.

 

MUSEUM/LIBRARY RESOURCES

The Worcester Tornado, June 9, 1953

The tornado first touched down in Petersham about 4:25 p.m and a column of instability led to the formation of an F-4 twister that pummeled Rutland, Holden, north Worcester, Shrewsbury, Westboro, and Southboro before retreating into the sky about an hour later. It destroyed most of Assumption College, which in the aftermath, moved to a new location; part of the main administration building still stands at what is now Quinsigamond Community College. From the Marvin Richmond Collection at the Worcester Historical Museum.

Baseball in Worcester

Baseball has always been a favorite pastime in Worcester. Previous to 1865 the game was commonly called “round ball” and the old Common was the playground for everybody who wished to participate, three or four games going on at the same time on holidays. For several years previous to 1860 the only organized club in the city was the “Mechanics.” The first professional team in the city was the Irvings, who flourished in 1877-8. The following year the game was loudly boomed and the “Worcesters” were organized to represent the city in what was called the International Association. In 1880-81-82 the Worcesters were in the National League and baseball prospered as never before or since. The city was not large enough however to support a League team, and at the close of the season of 1882, the Worcesters ceased to exist. Baseball remained practically at rest until 1888 when a team was organized to represent the city in the New England BaseBall Association. Commentary by Bill Ballou in this video created by Pagano Media for Worcester Historical Museum to welcome the Worcester Tornadoes in 2005.

SMILEY OFFICIAL

SEND an Electronic WORCESTER SMILE to brighten up someone’s day! Then draw some Smileys and put one or two or three in your windows; draw chalk Smileys in your driveways; make Smile masks to wear when face timing friends and family. Ask your friends, neighbors, relatives…even enemies (if you have any) to do the same. Then have everyone post to the Museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages. It can be photos of their creations, something they own, something they wish they could do, see, or buy right now. Remind all the power of a smile – and of Worcester. If we all reach out, the smiles will increase in numbers and impact.

SEND an Electronic WORCESTER SMILE to brighten up someone’s day!  Then draw some Smileys and put one or two or three in your windows; draw chalk Smileys in your driveways; make Smile masks to wear when face timing friends and family. Ask your friends, neighbors, relatives…even enemies (if you have any) to do the same.  Then have everyone post to the Museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages. It can be photos of their creations, something they own, something they wish they could do, see, or buy right now. Remind all the power of a smile – and of Worcester. If we all reach out, the smiles will increase in numbers and impact.

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?

Visit the buttons on the left to see exciting Worcester history and/or visit Worcester Historical Museum at 30 Elm Street and/or Salisbury Mansion at 40 Highland Street.

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PRETTY POWERFUL: 100 Years of Voting & Style

WHM’s major exhibit celebrates the 19th Amendment and Centennial of women’s right to vote. This retrospective features costumes, accessories, fashion illustration, and photography from WHM’s collections as well as loans and acquisitions to chronicle a century of women’s social and political activism in Worcester, the Commonwealth, and our nation. From women’s roles to women’s rights, PRETTY POWERFUL will chart the development of style alongside social, political, and economic changes; exploring how clothing communicates who we are, what we do, and the society in which we live.

Read More

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