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The Smiley Face Was Made In Worcester, And It's Now 50

This article is more than 4 years old.

OK, OK, I'll admit ignorance on this one. At first, I thought this was an unusual wordless tweet from The Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

Luckily, there are some knowledgeable people in the WBUR newsroom.

My colleague Daniel Guzman immediately replied on Twitter: "Today is World Smile Day. The iconic yellow smiley face was created by Worcester artist Harvey Ball. worldsmileday.com"

The T&G details:

What began as a freelance project by Mr. Ball to boost morale for the former State Mutual Life Assurance Co. has grown into a globally recognized symbol of kindness and good cheer. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Smiley's debut in the insurance company's newsletter, and the 15th anniversary of World Smile Day.

Here's why the artist created World Smile Day, according to the day's site:

As the years passed Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning and intent had become lost in the constant repetition of the marketplace. Out of that concern came his idea for World Smile Day®. He thought that we, all of us, should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout the world.

The Worcester Historical Museum is asking people to help celebrate Smiley's 50th, and the city is kicking off a reading initiative in conjunction with World Smile Day.

"It's a great way to tie the two in, because reading does make you smile," Chantell McDowell, the Worcester Public Library's youth services coordinator, told the T&G.

Here's an AP photo of Ball with his creation in 1998:

Smiley face creator Harvey Ball, of Worcester, autographs posters in his office on July 6, 1998. (Paul Connors/AP)
Smiley face creator Harvey Ball, of Worcester, autographs posters in his office on July 6, 1998. (Paul Connors/AP)

And check out the Telegram & Gazette's slideshow here.

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.

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