Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Did you guys know that this city invented the smiley face?

(Art by Gemma Kaneko /

Before today, I hadn't really thought much about the smiley face.

A teacher would draw it next to an A+ on a homework assignment, friends sent it as an emoji in a text message when they didn't know what else to say -- I figured people had been using it forever. They've been carved onto random pieces of furniture since time immemorial. Cavemen and women probably drew it in their caves.

Nobody owned it, nobody really invented it.

But actually, no. Once again, I was wrong.

Today, I learned that this dude, who is very much not smiling, invented the smiley face in 1963.

That's Harvey Ball and, don't worry, he does smile sometimes.

Although there have been smiley faces drawn for centuries, Harvey is credited as the inventor of the most iconic version: yellow background, two black dots for eyes and a long black arch for the mouth. Something an 8-year-old could've drawn with their eyes closed, and yet, they didn't.

Ball was an executive at a Worcester, Mass., advertising company and saw it as a way to boost morale for another company's employees. It only took him 10 minutes, but it ended up everywhere around the world -- on signs, posters, clothing, tote bags, buttons and stickers. A true symbol of Americana.

Unfortunately, Ball never copyrighted his creation and only received $45 for the initial drawing. That is very much not smiley face emoji.

BUT, maybe even better than loads of money (maybe), Ball will get a pro sports team dedicated to him in 2021. His hometown Minor League baseball team, the newly-announced Worcester WooSox, will use his symbol as their team logo.

"[Worcester] is the birthplace of the smiley face," said [team owner Dr. Charles Steinberg]. "It was first drawn by an advertising executive by the name of Harvey Ball in 1963. That was the original smiley face and that's also a point of pride in Worcester. So the logo shows the W with the heart in the middle of it and a smiley face wearing the obvious red socks and there's a heart-shaped W on his bat. It says kids and fun and family."

In an industry where team logos are supposed to be fierce and intimidating, it's actually a perfect motif for the sport: it screams summertime, happiness, baseball. Let's hope Harvey is smiling about it somewhere.