Creator of Smiley Face icon dies at 79
By Associated Press, 04/13/01
WORCESTER -- Harvey R. Ball, whose simple drawing of a smiling face on a yellow background became a cultural icon, died Thursday after a short illness. He was 79.
Ball, who co-owned an advertising and public relations firm in Worcester, designed the Smiley Face in 1963 to boost the morale of workers in two recently merged insurance companies.
Smiley Face creator Harvey Ball in his Worcester office in 1998. (AP Photo)
World Smile Corp.
Ball was paid $45 for his artwork by State Mutual Life Assurance Cos. of America -- now Allamerica -- in 1963.
He never applied for a trademark or copyright, something his son, Charles Ball, said his father never regretted.
"He was not a money-driven guy," Charles Ball told the Telegram and Gazette of Worcester. "He used to say, `Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time, drive one car at a time."'
"He'd get letters from all over the world thanking him for Smiley. How do you put a price on that? He died with no apologies and no regrets."
At its peak of popularity in 1971, more than 50 million Smiley Face buttons were sold. It has been used in countless advertising campaigns, most recently by Wal-Mart.
He created posters for World Smile Day, begun by Mr. Ball two years ago. The third celebration will be Oct. 5.
The Smiley Face enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1980s. In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Smiley Face stamp.
"It was truly an international icon," said William B. Wallace, director of the Worcester Historical Museum.
Mr. Wallace said the cable History Channel is planning a segment on Ball and the Smiley Face for its series on the 1960s.
At the time of his death, Ball still had an art studio on Main Street.
A World War II Army veteran, Ball was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism during the Battle of Okinawa.
According to the award citation, Mr. Ball continued to set up a vital communications line while under sniper fire. He eventually completed the hookup and took out the sniper.
He is survived by his wife, Winifred, three sons and a daughter.