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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 the Coes brothers 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, with tax-levy funds, 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 the U.S. in 1895.
  • Albert A. Michelson, later chairman of Clark University’s Physics Department, is 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.


PRETTY POWERFUL: 100 Years of Voting & Style

This landmark exhibit and accompanying catalog told the stories of women’s activism, empowerment, and struggle over the past century through 36 outfits/accessories. Treasures from WHM’s extensive historic costume collection as well as loans from the community were featured, and archival photographs highlighted Worcester’s diverse local history. The text, written by historians Charlotte Haller and Madeline Ryan, reflected the latest historical scholarship and emphasized the multiple stories contained within a single outfit. Our community’s diverse voices — Black, Ghanaian, Nipmuc, Asian, LGBTQ+, Muslim, and Latinx — all contribute to the fabric and storytelling of Worcester. By clustering outfits around the themes

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We all got history…Worcester at 300

We all got history… Worcester at 300, opened in the Museum’s Booth Gallery on July 14, 2022 and closed on October 8, 2022. The exhibition continued the community-wide celebration of Worcester’s 300th anniversary as an official town in the Commonwealth. Included in the exhibition was a small sampling of the museum’s collection that represents some of the people, places, and things that make Worcester the “Heart of the Commonwealth.” Each section in the exhibition offered a unique perspective with the inclusion of historic and modern objects, paintings, broadsides, and archival documents. These items invite you to see that unexpected objects

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This website was made possible by a generous gift from The Fred Harris Daniels Foundation, Inc.

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