Smiley Face, dead at 79

From: Adam L. Beberg (
Date: Fri Apr 13 2001 - 17:11:28 PDT


(devil chef on his way to have some salmon steaks, oh yea...)

- Adam L. "Duncan" Beberg

WORCESTER, Massachusetts (AP) -- 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.

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 the discount store giant, Wal-Mart.

He created posters for World Smile Day, begun by Ball two years ago. The
third celebration will be October 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.

Wallace said the cable television 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.

A World War II Army veteran, Ball was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism
during the Battle of Okinawa.

According to the award citation, Ball continued to set up a vital
communications line while under sniper fire.

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