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 Harvey R. Ball  (1921 - 2001)

About: Harvey R. Ball


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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: illustrator-smiley face

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Ad Code: 4
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the New York Times, Obituary section, 4/14/2001:

H. R. Ball, Ad Executive Credited With Smiley Face, Is Dead at 79

Harvey R. Ball, the strongest claimant to having invented the smiley face, that 100-watt yellow grin adorning tote bags, letters, car bumpers, cycling shorts and eventually a United States postage stamp, died on Thursday in Worcester, Mass. He was 79.

The cause was liver failure, said his daughter, Jacquelyn Stein.

As Mr. Ball told it, in 1963 he was running an advertising and public relations agency in Worcester when a client, the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, now Allmerica Financial Corporation, asked him to help soothe the ruffled feelings of workers when it merged with another company.

Mr. Ball came up with the smiley face.

Mr. Ball later told interviewers that he was paid $45 for his artwork and never applied for a trademark or copyright.

At its peak of popularity, in 1971, more than 50 million smiley face buttons were sold, The Associated Press reported. In 1999, the Postal Service issued a smiley face stamp.

Some have disputed Mr. Ball's claim to originality. In 1989, Charlie Alzamora, then program director for the radio station WMCA in New York, told The New York Times that the design had been created by his station in 1962, a year earlier than Mr. Ball's smiley face, as a promotion for its disc jockeys.

The slogan "the WMCA good guys," together with the happy face (its smile slightly crooked), was printed on thousands of sweat shirts distributed by the station, Mr. Alzamora said.

If Mr. Ball was, in fact, inspired by the WMCA logo, all he had to do was straighten the crooked smile.

One historian who is convinced that Mr. Ball was the originator of the smiley face is William Wallace, executive director of the Worcester Historical Museum.

"The fact that Harvey Ball created the smiley face is well documented in text and photography in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and in the internal documents of State Mutual Life," Mr. Wallace said. "No one else can make a successful claim."

Harvey Ross Ball was born in Worcester on July 10, 1921. He attended the local public schools and graduated from the Worcester Art Museum School.

After serving in the Army during World War II in the battle of Okinawa, Mr. Ball established his advertising and public relations agency in 1959. He was active in the agency until his death.

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