Harvey Ball is the reputed inventor of the smiley. Ball was working as a contract graphic artist for the State Mutual Life Assurance company in Worcester, MA in the '60s. The company was in the process of merging with another insurance company and, like most mergers, employees weren't altogether happy. Morale had plummeted. Ball was asked to come up with an internal pick-me-up campaign to get customer service people and the like to just be a bit more friendly. I mean, is that too much to ask? He dashed off the smiley face in about ten minutes and had the image pressed onto buttons and pins.

Customers began to notice them on the lapels of insurance salesmen and would ask for some. Soon the insurance company was ordering Ball's smiley pins by the thousands.

In the early '70s a Frenchman named Franklin Loufrani registered the smiley face as a trademark in 80 countries. Although no Frenchman has ever been known to smile, Loufrani claimed to have invented the smiley in the midst of the 1968 student riots in Paris. Uh huh.

Loufrani was unable to register the smiley in the USA, however. Loufrani went on to form the Smiley Licensing Corp and makes like millions on world wide registration fees. Ball registered his own smiley in the USA and licensed it to Wal-Mart.

In 1999, Ball tried to promote an annual "World Smile Day" on October 1. Learning a lesson from his near loss of his smiley trademark to the Frenchman, Ball trademarked "World Smile Day" and required anyone using it to seek his permission. No one ever did. We don't celebrate World Smile Day because the idea just sucks.

Harvey Ball died in 2001 at the age of 79.

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