Among the many creative people in history few were as multitalented as Rube Goldberg who managed to achieve success as a cartoonist, inventor, engineer, Pulitzer-Prize winning author, and sculpture. Rube Goldberg’s legend lives on primarily because of a series of cartoons he created which depicted complex gadgets performing simple tasks. Even today, people will create “Rube Goldberg Machines” that work in real-life, as one imagines the cartoon drawn inspirations would have had they ever been constructed.
Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg (more commonly known as “Rube”) was born on July 4th, 1883 in San Francisco, California. He started drawing when he was four years old and spent a great deal of his life creating political cartoons that often landed him in hot water with those who did not share his views. Yet Rube did not initially set his sights on becoming a cartoonist. In 1904 he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a College of Mining degree. He worked in San Francisco as an engineer for the Water and Sewers Department before resigning his position to become sports cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and he later worked at the San Francisco Bulletin. He moved to New York City in 1907 and continued his cartooning career in publications such as the New York Journal, New York Evening Journal and the New York Evening Mail.
Part of Rube’s cartooning work was to create amusing and memorable characters. To that end, Rube Goldberg created dozens of cartoon series featuring imaginative plots and characters. His most famous character was called Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts who created the humorous inventions that would later be referred to as “Rube Goldberg Machines.”
Rube Goldberg also found success in mediums other than newspapers. In 1930 he wrote a film called “Soup to Nuts” that featured his machines and starred The Three Stooges. In 1948 his political cartoons earned him a Pulitzer Prize and he was the first president (and a founding member) of the National Cartoonist Society. He is also the namesake of the Reuben Award that annually gives someone the honor of being the Cartoonist of the Year.
Rube Goldberg married in 1916 and started a family. His children continue his legacy via the RGI Company (Rube Goldberg Incorporated). Rube’s legacy is long lasting and it deserves to be honored. Although Rube died on December 7, 1970 at the age of 87, his work is still highly regarded and beloved by millions of people. There are numerous international “Rube Goldberg Machine Contests” held every year that challenge participants to make the kinds of machines that Rube’s work depicted. Currently, many such inventions can be found via a quick Internet search. One of the most famous “Rube Goldberg Inspired Machines” is a sequenced featured on a music video by a rock band known as OK Go for their song titled “This Too Shall Pass.” The video is embedded above and it can also be seen on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w
Numerous television shows from Sesame Street to The X-Files, to Family Guy have depicted scenes and plots involving Rube Goldberg-like creations. Rube Goldberg’s brilliant imagination has even inspired video games such as Little Big Planet and Crazy Machines. For more information about Rube Goldberg visit his official website: http://www.rubegoldberg.com/
Although Rube Goldberg is not as well-known as many other artists and visionaries, he is certainly one of the most innovative and influential artists and thinkers of the 20th century. His delightful contraptions have brought joy to millions of people and have also inspired builders and engineers to be critical thinkers who must think “outside the box” in order to create the best and more impressive machines possible. Rube Goldberg was truly a unique mind and the world is a better place for having had him in it.