NW Means Safety

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Yellow smiley faced button with black text around the rim. 

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Norfolk and Western Railway was a class I railroad founded by more than 200 railroad mergers from 1838 and 1982. During the Civil War, the NW played an important role for moving items in the Confederacy. Employing coal for much of its life, the NW Railway was profitable through WWI and WWII paying regular dividends throughout the Great Depression.

The classic yellow smiley face 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 SM0143