Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg (July 4, 1883 – December 7, 1970),
known best as Rube Goldberg, was an American cartoonist, sculptor,
author, engineer, and inventor.
Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting
complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted
ways, giving rise to the term
Rube Goldberg machines for any similar
gadget or process. Goldberg received many honors in his lifetime,
including a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning in 1948 and
the Banshees' Silver Lady Award in 1959.
Goldberg was a founding member and the first president of the National
Cartoonists Society, and he is the namesake of the Reuben Award,
which the organization awards to the
Cartoonist of the Year. He is the
inspiration for various international competitions, known as Rube
Goldberg Machine Contests, which challenge participants to make a
complicated machine to perform a simple task.
1 Personal life
3 Cultural legacy
3.1 Film and television
4 See also
6 External links
Goldberg was born July 4, 1883, in San Francisco, California, to
Jewish parents Max and Hannah (Cohen) Goldberg. He was the third of
seven children, three of whom died as children (older brother Garrett,
younger brother Walter, and younger sister Lillian also survived).
Goldberg began tracing illustrations when he was four years old, and
first took professional drawing lessons when he was eleven.
Goldberg married Irma Seeman on October 17, 1916. They lived at 98
Central Park West in
New York City
New York City and had two sons named Thomas and
World War II
World War II Goldberg's sons changed their surname, at
Goldberg's insistence, because of the amount of hatred towards him
stemming from the political nature of his cartoons. Thomas chose
the surname of George, in order to honor his brother; George, wanting
to keep a sense of family cohesiveness, adopted the same surname.
Thomas and George's children now run a company called RGI (Rube
Goldberg Incorporated) to maintain the Goldberg name. John George
(Thomas's son) is assisted by his cousin Jennifer George
(George's daughter) and John's son Joshua George to keep the family
Rube Goldberg with family, 1929
Goldberg's father was a
San Francisco police and fire commissioner,
who encouraged the young Reuben to pursue a career in engineering.
Rube graduated from the
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley in 1904
with a degree in Engineering and was hired by the city of San
Francisco as an engineer for the Water and Sewers Department. After
six months he resigned his position with the city to join the San
Francisco Chronicle where he became 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
New York City in 1907, finding
employment as a cartoonist with the New York Evening Mail.
New York Evening Mail
New York Evening Mail was syndicated to the first newspaper
syndicate, the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, giving Goldberg's cartoons
a wider distribution, and by 1915 he was earning $25,000 per year and
being billed by the paper as America's most popular cartoonist.
Arthur Brisbane had offered Goldberg $2,600 per year in 1911 in an
unsuccessful attempt to get him to move to William Randolph Hearst's
newspaper chain, and in 1915 raised the offer to $50,000 per year.
Rather than lose Goldberg to Hearst, the
New York Evening Mail
New York Evening Mail matched
the salary offer and formed the Evening Mail Syndicate to syndicate
Goldberg's cartoons nationally.
Goldberg was syndicated by the
McNaught Syndicate from 1922 until
A prolific artist, Goldberg produced several cartoon series
simultaneously, including Mike and Ike (They Look Alike), Boob McNutt,
Foolish Questions, What Are You Kicking About,
Telephonies, Lala Palooza, The Weekly Meeting of the Tuesday
Women's Club, and the uncharacteristically serious soap-opera strip,
Doc Wright, which ran for 10 months beginning January 29, 1933.
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" that would later bear
From 1938 to 1941, Goldberg drew two weekly strips for the Register
and Tribune Syndicate: Brad and Dad (1939-1941) and Side Show
The popularity of Goldberg's cartoons was such that the term
"Goldbergian" was in use in print by 1915, and "Rube Goldberg" by
1928. "Rube Goldberg" appeared in the Random House Dictionary of
the English Language in 1966 meaning "having a fantastically
complicated improvised appearance", or "deviously complex and
impractical.":118 The 1915 usage of "Goldbergian" was in reference
to Goldberg's early comic strip Foolish Questions which he drew from
1909 to 1934, while later use of the terms "Goldbergian", "Rube
Goldberg" and "
Rube Goldberg machine" refer to the crazy inventions
for which he is now best known from his strip The Inventions of
Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, drawn from 1914 to 1964.:305
The corresponding term in the UK was, and still is, "Heath Robinson",
after the English illustrator with an equal devotion to odd machinery,
also portraying sequential or chain reaction elements.
Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin (1931)
Goldberg's work was commemorated posthumously in 1995 with the
inclusion of Rube Goldberg's Inventions, depicting his 1931
"Self-Operating Napkin" in the
Comic Strip Classics
Comic Strip Classics series of U.S.
Film and television
Rube Goldberg wrote a feature film featuring his machines and
sculptures called Soup to Nuts, which was released in 1930 and starred
Ted Healy and the pre-
Curly Howard version of The Three Stooges.
In the 1962 John Wayne movie Hatari!, an invention to catch monkeys by
character Pockets, played by Red Buttons, is described as a "Rube
In the late 1960s and early 70s, educational shows like Sesame Street,
Vision On and
The Electric Company
The Electric Company routinely showed bits that involved
Rube Goldberg devices, including the
Rube Goldberg Alphabet
Contraption, and the What Happens Next Machine.
Various other films and cartoons have included highly complicated
machines that perform simple tasks. Among these are Flåklypa Grand
Prix, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Wallace and Gromit, Pee-wee's Big
Adventure, The Way Things Go, Edward Scissorhands, Back to the Future,
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Goonies, Gremlins, the Saw film series,
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Cat from Outer Space, Malcolm, Hotel For
Dogs, the Home Alone film series, Family Guy, American Dad!, and
Also in the Final Destination film series the characters often die in
Rube Goldberg-esque ways. In the film The Great Mouse Detective, the
villain Ratigan attempts to kill the film's heroes, Basil of Baker
Street and David Q. Dawson, with a
Rube Goldberg style device. The
classic video in this genre was done by the artist duo Peter Fischli
& David Weiss in 1987 with their 30-minute video "Der Lauf der
Dinge" or "The Way Things Go".
Honda produced a video in 2003 called "The Cog" using many of the same
principles that Fischli and Weiss had done in 1987.
In 2005, the American alternative rock/indie band
The Bravery released
a video for their debut single, "An Honest Mistake," which features
the band performing the song in the middle of a
Rube Goldberg machine.
In 1999, an episode of
The X-Files was titled "The Goldberg
Variation". The episode intertwined characters FBI agents Mulder and
Scully, a simple apartment super, Henry Weems (Willie Garson) and an
ailing young boy, Ritchie Lupone (Shia LaBeouf) in a real-life
The 2010 music video "This Too Shall Pass – RGM Version" by the rock
OK Go features a machine that, after four minutes of kinetic
activity, shoots the band members in the face with paint. "RGM"
presumably stands for
Rube Goldberg Machine.
2012 The CBS show Elementary features a machine in its opening
2014 The Web Series, "Deadbeat," on Hulu features an episode titled,
"The Ghost in the Machine," which features the protagonist, Kevin,
helping the ghost of
Rube Goldberg complete a contraption that will
bring his grandchildren together after making a collection of random
items into a machine that ends up systematically injuring two of his
grandchildren so they end up in the same hospital and finally meet.
Both board games and video games have been inspired by Goldberg's
creations, such as the 60's board game Mouse Trap, the 1990s series of
The Incredible Machine games, and Crazy Machines. The
Humongous Entertainment game Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted
Schoolhouse involves searching for the missing pieces to a Rube
Goldberg machine to complete the game.
In 1909 Goldberg invented the "Foolish Questions" game based on his
successful cartoon by the same name. The game was published in many
versions from 1909 to 1934.
Rube Works: The Official
Rube Goldberg Invention Game, the first game
authorized by The Heirs of Rube Goldberg, was published by Unity Games
(the publishing arm of Unity Technologies) in November 2013.
Deathtrap (plot device)
Frederick Rowland Emett
W. Heath Robinson, British artist who drew "inventions" similar to
Jean Tinguely, Swiss artist who created Rube Goldberg–like
Storm P, a Danish contemporary artist who drew "inventions" similar to
^ a b c Goldberg, Reuben. "Members / In Memoriam / Rube Goldberg"
(JPEG). reuben.org. National Cartoonists Society. Retrieved August 5,
^ "The History of the NCS" Archived December 23, 2011, at the Wayback
Machine.. reuben.org. National Cartoonists Society.
^ a b Contemporary Authors: First revision, Volumes 5–8. Gale
Research Company. 1969. p. 448.
^ a b c d e f g Marzio, Peter C. (1973). Rube Goldberg: His Life and
Work. Harper and Row. ISBN 0060128305.
^ Peterson, Alison J. (November 20, 2007). "George W. George, at 87;
writer, producer of films and Broadway plays". New York Times News
Service. Boston Globe. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
^ "The Art of Rube Goldberg". Jennifer George NYC. Retrieved December
^ George, Jennifer. "About". Rubegoldberg.com.
^ Peterson, Alison J. (November 20, 2007). "Obituaries – George W.
George, at 87; writer, producer of films and Broadway plays". The
Boston Globe. New York Times News Service. Retrieved November 28,
^  at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on
July 30, 2016.
^ "Foolish Questions hi". The
San Francisco Call. December 2, 1910.
^ "What Are You Kicking About". The
San Francisco Call. June 1, 1910.
^ "Telephonies". The
San Francisco Call. July 12, 1911.
^ Doc Wright at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived April 4, 2016, at
WebCite from the original on April 4, 2016.
^ Goldberg profile, Who's Who of American Comic Book Artists,
1928–1999. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.
^ Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press. 1915
Vanity Fair The Goldbergian answer would be ‘No, I paint my nose and
eyes red every day to frighten the gypsy-moths away.'
access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Atkinson, J. Brooks (10 February 1928). "THE PLAY; "Rain or Shine,"
Joe Cook". New York Times. p. 26. He then introduces the Fuller
Construction Orchestra, which is one of those
Rube Goldberg crazy
mechanical elaborations for passing a modest musical impulse from a
buzz. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ "American Topics: 20 Classic Comic Strips Get (Postage) Stamp of
Approval". The New York Times. May 8, 1995. Retrieved August 5,
^ "Sesame Street: What Happens Next Machine". Youtube.com. August 6,
2010. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
Rube Goldberg alphabet contraption, Sesame Street". Youtube.com.
Retrieved December 8, 2013.
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass –
Rube Goldberg Machine version".
YouTube. March 1, 2010. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
^ Wolfe, Maynard Frank (2000).
Rube Goldberg Inventions. Simon &
Schuster. p. 25. ISBN 0-684-86724-9.
^ "Rube-Goldberg Puzzler "Rube Works" Now Available for iPad and
iPhone". Gamasutra. November 13, 2013. Retrieved December 27,
Wolfe, Maynard Frank (2000). Rube Goldberg: Inventions. New York:
Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684867249.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rube Goldberg.
Rube Goldberg website
Smithsonian's Archives of American Art: Oral History Interview with
Rube Goldberg, 1970
Rube Goldberg on IMDb
Guide to the
Rube Goldberg Papers at The Bancroft Library
Rube Goldberg interviewed by Edward Murrow, 1959
Rube Works: The Official
Rube Goldberg Invention Game
Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning
Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning (1922–1950)
Rollin Kirby (1922)
Ding Darling (1924)
Rollin Kirby (1925)
D. R. Fitzpatrick
D. R. Fitzpatrick (1926)
Nelson Harding (1927)
Nelson Harding (1928)
Rollin Kirby (1929)
Charles R. Macauley
Charles R. Macauley (1930)
Edmund Duffy (1931)
John T. McCutcheon
John T. McCutcheon (1932)
H. M. Talburt
H. M. Talburt (1933)
Edmund Duffy (1934)
Ross A. Lewis (1935)
C. D. Batchelor
C. D. Batchelor (1937)
Vaughn Shoemaker (1938)
Charles G. Werner (1939)
Edmund Duffy (1940)
Jacob Burck (1941)
Herbert Lawrence Block (1942)
Jay Norwood Darling
Jay Norwood Darling (1943)
Clifford K. Berryman
Clifford K. Berryman (1944)
Bill Mauldin (1945)
Bruce Alexander Russell (1946)
Vaughn Shoemaker (1947)
Reuben L. Goldberg (1948)
Lute Pease (1949)
James T. Berryman
James T. Berryman (1950)
Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame
Harold Von Schmidt
Edward A. Wilson
Arthur William Brown
Charles Dana Gibson
N. C. Wyeth
J. C. Leyendecker
Edwin Austin Abbey
Howard Chandler Christy
James Montgomery Flagg
Frederic R. Gruger
Henry P. Raleigh
Neysa Moran McMein
Arthur Burdett Frost
Charles Marion Russell
Robert T. McCall
John Held Jr.
Arthur Ignatius Keller
Jessie Willcox Smith
William Arthur Smith
Edwin A. Georgi
Elizabeth Shippen Green
Joseph Clement Coll
Frank E. Schoonover
Anton Otto Fischer
Robert M. Cunningham
Rose Cecil O'Neill
Charles Livingston Bull
David Stone Martin
Alice and Martin Provensen
James Allen St. John
John James Audubon
Will H. Bradley
Charles R. Knight
E. Simms Campbell
Robert Andrew Parker
Albert Beck Wenzell
Frank H. Netter
Alvin J. Pimsler
Jack Neal Unruh
Edward Windsor Kemble
Kinuko Y. Craft
Herbert Morton Stoops
Charles Edward Chambers
Earl Oliver Hurst
Orson Byron Lowell
Chris Van Allsburg
Kenneth Paul Block
Alan E. Cober
R. O. Blechman
Charles M. Schulz
William Cameron Menzies
Ted Lewin and Betsy Lewin
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