Rube Goldberg

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Rube Goldberg, 1928

Born 9 July 1883 (1883-07-09)
San Francisco California
Died 7 December 1970 (1970-12-08)
Nationality American
Occupation Cartoonist, Artist, Inventor

Reuben Garret Lucius Goldberg (4 July 1883 – 7 December 1970) was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor who received a 1948 Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning. He is best known for his series of popular cartoons depicting Rube Goldberg machines, complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. The Reuben Award of the National Cartoonists Society is named in his honor. In addition, there are several contests around the world known as Rube Goldberg contests which challenge high school students to make a complex machine perform a simple task.


[edit] Biography

Goldberg was hired by the city of San Francisco as an engineer; however, his fondness for drawing cartoons prevailed, and after just a few months, he quit the city job for a job with the San Francisco Chronicle as a sports cartoonist. The following year, he took a job with the San Francisco Bulletin, where he remained until he moved to New York City in 1907.

He drew cartoons for five newspapers, including the New York Evening Journal and the New York Evening Mail. His work entered syndication in 1915, beginning his nationwide popularity. He was syndicated by the McNaught Syndicate from 1922 until 1934. A prolific artist, Goldberg produced several cartoon series simultaneously, including Mike and Ike (They Look Alike), Boob McNutt, Foolish Questions, Lala Palooza and The Weekly Meeting of the Tuesday Women's Club.

This postcard book, Rube Goldberg's Inventions!, was compiled by Maynard Frank Wolfe from the Rube Goldberg Archives. The collection of 30 Goldberg cartoons was published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang in 1996. The cover illustration shows Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin.

However, the cartoons that brought him lasting fame involved a character named Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. In that series, Goldberg drew labeled schematics of the comical "inventions" which would later bear his name. In 1995, Rube Goldberg's Inventions, depicting Professor Butts' "Self-Operating Napkin," was one of 20 strips included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps. The "Self-Operating Napkin" is activated when the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin. After-dinner entertainment can be supplied with the simple substitution of a harmonica for the napkin.

Goldberg married Irma Seeman in 1916. They remained together until his death in 1970 and had two sons, Thomas and George.[1] However, during World War II Goldberg began receiving a large amount of hate mail because of the political nature of his cartoons.[1] He ordered both of his sons to change their surnames from Goldberg in order to protect them.[1] Thomas chose his new last name as "George".[1] George also chose "George" as his new last name in order to keep some kind of family bond with his brother.[1]

Goldberg died at the age of 87; he is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. Rube Goldberg's son, Broadway and film producer George W. George, died on 7 November 2007.[1]

[edit] Cultural references and influences

A feature film written by Goldberg and featuring his machines and sculptures is "Soup to Nuts" (1930). The film includes Ted Healy and The Three Stooges.

The popular child's game Mouse Trap is based on Goldberg's machines, as is the 1990s era video game series The Incredible Machine.

On the 2005 Holiday Special episode of the Discovery Channel series, MythBusters; Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman build a Rube Goldberg machine using a bowling ball, a battery operated robot, a pair of wind-up toy monkeys, a Mentos/Diet-Coke eruption, and their crash test dummy mascot, Buster (among other items).

Various other films, cartoons, and games have included highly complex machines that perform simple tasks. Among these are Family Guy, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Back to the Future, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Games that feature this as a concept are Little Big Planet and Incredibots.

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Preceded by
Vaughn Shoemaker
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning
Succeeded by
Lute Pease
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