Smiling faces have existed for a very long time, but who invented the “smiley”? In 1962-63, WMCA’s ‘Good Guys” radio station had a logo of a “smiley”—a circular head, dots for eyes, and a curved line for a mouth. Some credit this as the first “smiley.”
Harvey Ball drew a “smiley” in 1963 (or 1964) for the State Mutual Life Assurance company (Wisconsin). In the early 1970s, brothers Murray and Bernard Spain of Philadelphia mass-marketed the “smiley face.” However, the exact same “smiley face” can be see in March 10, 1953 New York newspaper advertisements for the film Lili. A November 1964 Good Housekeeping advertisement also showed a smiley face.
The first computer “emoticon” smiley face is credited to a September 19, 1982 post to a Carnegie Mellon University bulletin board.
The smiley, smiley face, or happy face, is a stylized representation of a smiling human face, commonly represented as a yellow button with two dots representing eyes and a half circle representing the mouth. “Smiley” is also sometimes used as a generic term for any emoticon.
The very earliest known examples of the graphic are attributed to Harvey Ball, who devised the face in 1963 for a Cumberland, Wisconsin, Canada-based insurance firm, State Mutual Life Assurance. Ball never attempted to use, promote or trademark the image; it fell into the public domain in the United States before that could be accomplished. As a result, Ball never made any profit for the iconic image beyond his initial $45 fee.
David Stern of David Stern Inc., a Seattle-based advertising agency also claimed to have invented the smiley. Stern reportedly developed his version in 1967 as part of an ad campaign for Washington Mutual, but says he did not think to trademark it.
The graphic was popularized in the early 1970s by a pair of brothers, Murray and Bernard Spain, who seized upon it in a campaign to sell novelty items. The two produced buttons as well as coffee mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers and many other items emblazoned with the symbol and the phrase “Have a happy day” (devised by Gyula Bogar). It can show many different emotions.
The smiley is largely associated in the UK with the acid house dance music culture that emerged in during the second summer of love in the late 1980s, often used as engraving famous logos on ecstasy tablets at the time. The association was cemented when the band Bomb The Bass used an extracted, blood-splattered smiley from the comic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore, on the centre of their Beat Dis hit single.
Licensing and legal issues
Smiley has been a registered trademark since 1971 when French businessman Franklin Loufrani created “Smiley World” to sell and license the smiley face image in the United Kingdom and Europe. The Smiley name and logo is registered and used in over 100 countries for 25 classes of goods and services.
In 2006 Wal-Mart, which prominently featured a smiley in its “Rolling Back Prices” campaign, sought to trademark the smiley face in the United States, coming into legal conflict with Loufrani and SmileyWorld over the matter. In 2006 Wal-mart began to phase out the smiley face on its vests and its website as part of a “no smiling” campaign. During a trademark infringement case against an online parodist, Wal-Mart again tried to claim it held the trademark rights to the yellow smiley face. The judge disagreed and in March 2008 Wal-Mart lost the case with the judge saying that Wal-Mart had no rights to the smiley face.
In 1999, Ball formed World Smile Corporation and began licensing the smiley face to fund his charitable causes. Profits are distributed to charities through the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, which also sponsors the annual World Smile Day Ball started in 1999 to encourage “acts of kindness”.
More than 1,200 smiley emoticons are registered with the Washington Library of Congress and protected by the Universal Copyright Convention.
Smiley Face History
1964 Ball spent about 10 minutes designing the smiley face for his client, an insurance company
1970 Bernard and Murray Spain added the words “Have a nice day,” to the smiley face
1971 At its peak of popularity, more than 50 million Smiley Face buttons were sold.
1999 United States Postal Service unveiled the Smiley Face Stamp
1999 First World Smile Day held
CAPS: Ball, Smiley Face, Harvey Ross Ball, Bernard Spain, Murray Spain, Have A Nice Day, ARYS, smiley face, , symbol, ☺, SIPS, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
In the early 60s State Mutual Life Assurance of Worcester, MA initiated a merger that had bad effects on company morale. In 1964, State Mutual cooked up a “friendship campaign” to get employees to smile whenever they answered the phone, paid a claim, or typed a report. The company turned to Harvey Ball for graphic support. Ball reported that he spent about 10 minutes designing the smiley face, and he was paid $45 for it. This was the only profit that Ball ever made from his most famous creation. Neither Ball or the insurance company trademarked or copyrighted the smiley face. In the early 1970s, the smiley face image became a symbol for an entire generation of Americans, emerging as one of the most well-known images in the country.
The smiley face craze, was the work of two brothers in Philadelphia, Bernard and Murray Spain, who were in the business of making would-be fad items. In September of 1970 they drew up a smiley face added the words “Have a nice day,” and copyrighted the image and words. Soon they and their many imitators were cranking out buttons, posters, greeting cards, shirts, bumper stickers, cookie jars, earrings, bracelets, key chains, and many other items. The fad lasted about a year and half; the number of smiley buttons produced by 1972 was estimated at 50 million.
WMCA Good Guys History
The WMCA Good Guys. From late 1960 until 1970, WMCA was one of New York City’s top radio stations. “Built on showmanship”, the station played top 40 music during the glory days of mass appeal Top 40 radio. It reached the baby boomers at their teenage peak and along the way distributed thousands of sweatshirts imprinted with a smiley faced logo to an enthusiastic audience that drove the station to ratings records.
Internet Movie Database
The earliest known appearance of the “smiley” emoticon, , was in an ad for this film in the New York Herald Tribune on 10 March 1953, page 20, columns 4-6. The film opened nationwide, and this ad possibly ran in many newspapers. It read: Today You’ll laugh You’ll cry :-( You’ll love <3 'Lili'" This should not be confused with the graphical yellow "smiley face", which was first drawn by Harvey Ball some 10 years later.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
smiley face, n.
1. A round, cartoon-style representation of a smiling face, originally and chiefly black on yellow.
The design was originally devised by Harvey Ball, U.S. commercial artist, in 1963, for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company (Worcester, Mass.), as the logo of a corporate friendship campaign. It is freq. used as a symbol of hope, peace, solidarity, etc., esp. in youth culture (associated esp. in the United States with the 1970s). It is also specifically associated (chiefly in the United Kingdom) with the Acid House movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
1972 Times 1 Dec. 20/3 Chinanew from France with the Smiley face in black on yellow. In packs of four: cups and saucers, £2.55; tea plates £2.45.
1986 D. LEAVITT Lost Lang. Cranes (1987) 198 Brad’s eye roved the room, which had recently taken on a second identity as an art gallery and was filled with murals depicting the deconstruction of the smiley face.
1989 Chicago Tribune (Nexis) 15 Feb. (Style section) 18 Inside the throbbing, strobe-lit Acid House clubs,..nothing symbolizes the endless ‘don’t worry be happy’ mentality more succinctly than Smiley Face… The non-stop grin..becomes explicitly linked to the use of the now-popular club drug Ecstasy.
2. In electronic communications: a symbol which (viewed sideways) represents a smiling face, formed with keyboard characters and used to indicate that the writer is pleased or joking. In later use: any of a number of different ‘faces’ so represented, indicating a variety of emotions; an emoticon. Cf. SMILEY n. 1.
1988 InfoWorld 22 Feb. 17/3 E-mail users therefore use a stilted, but necessary, convention when expressing humor. It’s a symbol called the smiley face.
1994 St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch (Electronic ed.) 15 Aug., The lack of intonation and other cues used to convey irony, sarcasm and self-deprecation in speech can lead to misunderstandings on the screen. (This is where a well-placed smiley-face or two comes in handy.)
2000 USA Today (Electronic ed.) 13 Nov. (heading) Smiley faces in e-mail go way beyond ... Internet users themselves make up the smiley faces, better known as emoticons.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
1. = SMILEY FACE n. 2.
1987 Chicago Tribune (Nexis) 30 Jan. 51 A convention for indicating a joke has become popular with users of electronic mail: the insertion of ‘smileys’.
1993 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 4 Nov. 17/2 Those newer forms of emotional punctuation called ‘smileys’ or ‘emoticons’vaguely irritating attempts to supply a sideways facial expression at the close of an e-mail paragraph.
2. Chiefly with capitial initial. = SMILEY FACE n. 1.
1989 Toronto Star (Nexis) 11 Feb. F1 The kids mimick the peace-and-love era, chant ‘aciieed’, and wear Smileys, those big yellow smile buttons from the ‘70s.
10 March 1953, New York (NY) Times, pg. 26 ad:
10 March 1953, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 20, cols. 4-6:
You’ll cry :(
You’ll love (Heart-shaped face—ed.)
(A movie with actress Leslie Caron—ed.)
25 November 1964, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 44, col. 2.:
("Smiley" ad for Good Housekeeping magazine—ed.)
22 August 1971, Mansfield (OH) News-Journal, pg. 12, col. 2 ad:
Look for Smiley Face, Peanuts, Coke, Pepsi, Hot Wheels and more.
(Welles Department Stores—ed.)
Carnegie Mellon University Bulletin Board
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman
From: Scott E Fahlman
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use
September 21, 2007
The prehistory of emoticons
There’s been a fair amount of press coverage this week for the 25th anniversary of a momentous event in the history of online communication. On September 19, 1982 at 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posted this electronic message to a computer science bulletin board at his home institution, Carnegie Mellon University:
As it happens, Ambrose Bierce had pretty much the same idea way back in 1887, and unlike Nabokov he actually put it on the printed page instead of just talking about it. In an essay entitled “For Brevity and Clarity,” Bierce proposes a number of reforms for the English language in his usual sardonic style. Here’s the relevant passage as it appears in The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol. XI: Antepenultimata (1912), pp. 386-7, courtesy of Google Books:
Before seeing the Google Books page image, I had thought that Bierce’s suggested punctuation looked like this: \___/. That’s how it appears in a footnote to Andrew Graham’s online essay, “Forked Tongue: The Language of Serpent in the Enlarged Devil’s Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce,” as well as the Wikipedia entry on emoticons. It’s interesting to discover that the parenthesis-as-smile representation actually goes back 120 years. (In Ambrose Bierce’s Civilians and Soldiers in Context: A Critical Study, Donald T. Blume dates this essay to September 25, 1887, but the version published in the 1912 collection may have been subsequently revised.)
Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at September 21, 2007 12:00 AM
New York (NY) Daily News
Ex-NYPD cops say smiley face is link in 40 deaths by serial killer syndicate
BY TAMER EL-GHOBASHY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 10:40 AM
A spray-painted smiley face with a taunting grin could be the disturbing signature of a nationwide network of killers who target promising college students.
The chilling symbol has been found at at least 12 sites where young men fitting a distinct profile have been drowned in incidents that were ruled accidents.
Found by two retired NYPD cops, the link could be evidence that at least 40 men in 11 states were victims of a syndicate of serial killers. Four area students were among the victims - all found floating in New York City waters more than a decade ago.
“I believe we’re looking at an organized group that has a hierarchy and is involved in murder and other criminal activity,” retired NYPD Sgt. Kevin Gannon said Monday, noting that some of the deaths in different cities occurred on the same day.
New York City • Names/Phrases • (0) Comments • Wednesday, April 30, 2008 • Permalink