Smile a While

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Traditional smiley face design in white on a bright pink background with white text around the outer edge

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When Amtrak introduced its new TurboTrain in the 1970s, it was meant to update train travel with faster, more modern trains. It was dubbed "the train of the future", equipped with airplane-like gas turbine engines. Unfortunately, there were several problems with the operation of the trains, and they were very costly to maintain and operate. The TurboTrains were soon retired from the tracks in the 1980s. Amtrak often handed out promotional buttons and brochures on the TurboTrains first runs, with slogans like, "Smile a While on the TurboTrain" and, "We're Making the Trains Worth Traveling Again."

This button is a variation on the classic yellow smiley face that is comprised of a yellow circle, two black dots for eyes and a black arc ending in serifs for a mouth. It  was designed in 1963 by by commercial artist, Harvey Ross Ball. Ball was commissioned by The State Mutual Life Insurance Company to create a happy face to raise the morale of their employees. His version was created in 10 minutes. The design was printed onto more than 50 million buttons. Neither Ball nor the company copyrighted this smiley, so it was continually used by other businesses in their promotions.

The design and concept is quite simple and was definitely used before Ball’s 1963 version. However his has become the most iconic. Variations have been used for advertising campaigns and in popular culture ever since.

Catalog ID SM0072