picture from thereformedbroker.com
Ok folks here’s how it goes: When you lift spoon (A) you pull string (B) makes ladle(C) fling cracker (D) over parrot (E). Parrot flies off perch (F) dropping seeds (G) into bucket (H) weight pulls another string (I) opening lighter (J) lighting firework (K) using sickle (L) to cut yet another string (M) freeing clock pendulum with napkin on end napkin to wipe your mouth. You can also put a harmonica on the end latter and play music for the guest. This patent automatic self-wiping napkin was “invented” in 1931 by Rube Goldberg, one of America’s most talented and successful cartoonist.
Born in San Francisco on the Fourth of July in 1883 to Max and Hannah Goldberg, Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, the second of four children, loved drawing and the newspapers business. He was a paper delivery boy in his boyhood and would copy pictures from book illustrations. He took his first drawing class at age 11. However his father was a police and fire commissioner who had high hopes for his kids and didn’t want Rube to be a starving artist for a living and sent him to the University of California, Berkeley. Rube graduated in 1904 with a degree in engineering and got a job at the San Francisco Water and Sewage Department. The pay was good for that time but Rube left after six months. He then got a job as a sports cartoonist and started to become a local celebrity. Soon he moved to New York in 1907 where he continued his career at the McClure Newspaper Syndicate in the “New York Evening Mail.”
Although it took a while to for him to make it big, Rube soon created over sixty different comic series, some only lasted a few years while others lasted for at least twenty. His first big hit was “Foolish Questions” in 1909 (Q:Doctor, are you listening for his heart? A:No, he swallowed a gramophone and I’m trying to find it) where fans could even send in their own questions and answers. Rube even created a card game based of strip. Other great works included good-natured simpleton“Boob McNutt,” word wizardry and zingers with “Mike and Ike, They Look Alike” and “I’m the Guy” and daffy dame “Lala Palooza” with her lazy brother Vince Doolittle. Rube also drew political cartoons; winning a Pulitzer for his “Peace Today” strip in 1948 seen below, company advertisements; even a newspaper comic strip just for advertising Pepsi sodas, “Pepsi and Pete: the Pepsi-Cola Cops,” and for a short time created a silent cartoon series for Pathé, an early animation studio from France. The cartoons sold well but Rube Goldberg left the animation business soon because he drew everything by himself and that and his newspaper comic career was taking too much of his time. Rube also wrote and created props for “Soup to Nuts” the first appearance of the Three Stooges and wrote a number of articles and short stories for magazines.
image from pinterest.com
Goldberg’s main claim to fame, however, were his “Inventions,” long whimsical contraptions using all kinds of junk put together for “labor saving” methods for simple problems. Rube used a character by the name of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, inspired by some of his eccentric professors back at the University of California as the “brilliant” inventer. Rube created things for hiding gravy stains on vests and cutting bread for sandwiches to ways for failed stock market investors to commit suicide and a self opening umbrella. Although not always meant to be political, Rube did make fun of bureaucrats, political debates and the government so much that around WWII he told his sons, Thomas and George to change their last name for protection. George W. Goldberg changed it to George W. George and became a famous theater and movie producer. Rube was also a founding member and first president of the National Cartoonist Society and designed it’s highest award, the Reuben.
image from tomrichmond.com
In 1964, Rube Goldberg made a shocking move in his career, he left drawing comics. Following in the footsteps of his hero the French painter and print maker, Honoré Daumier, Rube decided to start a career as a sculptor. Liking the idea of giving his drawing a 3-D feel, he took just one class on sculptures and in a year he had his first show that was a sellout. Although Goldberg stopped drawing comics, he never left the world of them. He helped found the National Cartoonists Society and was its honorary president. In 1967 he used his new skills with his old and designed the Reuben, the Society’s highest award and was its first recipient. In 1970 the old artist-inventor attended a special exhibition at the National Museum of History and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. called “Do it the Hard Way,” showing his life of work and laughs. Later that year on December 7 he died.
Rube’s, um, “simple” machines and inventions remain a part of today’s culture in comedy and technology. In 1995 his self opening napkin, the one I showed you above, was in the Post Office’s “American Newspaper Comics” series of stamps. His own name, Rube Goldberg is now in “Webster’s New Word Dictionary” as a complicated device with numerous task to complete simple objectives. Rube Goldberg’s have appeared in cartoon and films from “Loony Toons” and “Tom and Jerry” to “Home Alone” and even the “Saw” franchise. There have been Rube Goldberg contest at schools across the country. You most likely have worked on one yourself now that I mention it. Did you ever play the game “Mousetrap?” Yep, that a Rube Goldberg. There is even a Rube Goldberg app game created by Unity Technologies with the Heirs of Rube Goldberg where you can build inventions from the comics. You can also check out the official website for more comics and info here at https://www.rubegoldberg.com/. It may be worth mentioning a similar cartoonist in Great Britain, W. Heath Robinson, quite a contributor to crazy contraption in his own right.
picture from comics bulletin.com