The Soldier Behind World Smile Day

The world’s most recognized and beloved icon, the beaming yellow Smiley Face, was created in December of 1963 in Worcester, MA by a commercial artist and decorated WWII vet named Harvey Ball who never made more than the $45 he was paid for creating it. Swiftly Smiley “went viral” in an age before computers and became the most popular symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet. As the years passed Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning had become lost in the marketplace. The Smiley Face knows no politics, no geography and no religion and Harvey wanted to make that clear. So he declared that the first Friday in October each year would become World Smile Day with the slogan “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” That’s our assignment for Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, as Harvey and his creation are remembered and celebrated in his hometown of Worcester, MA and around the world. Here is Harvey’s story from the forthcoming book “The Saga of Smiley—How a Cheerful Icon Changed the World”: Ask the man on the street who invented the Smiley Face and he might reply that it was created by Forrest Gump in the eponymous 1994 film, when Forrest wiped his muddy face on a yellow T-shirt. But Smiley came into being at a particular time—December of 1963—in a particular place—Worcester, Massachusetts, once a booming industrial metropolis of factories spewing out textiles and abrasives, but by the early sixties, a sleepy city that its 170,000 citizens affectionately called “Wormtown.” In December of 1963, the United States was reeling from the traumas of the Kennedy assassination and growing opposition to the Viet Nam war. And in Worcester, MA, the executives of the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester (now Hanover Insurance), detecting [...]