About Rube Goldberg

Rueben Garret Lucius Goldberg was born on July 4th 1883 in San Francisco . By the end of his lifetime in December 7th 1970, he was known as an inventor, sculptor, author, engineer and cartoonist and would make a mark in history for his extraordinary achievements. Visit Rube Goldeberg's official site

Early Education: At a young age, he loved drawing, tracing and being creative but this was discouraged by his parents. In 1900 he graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco and in 1904, he graduated with a degree in engineering from the University of California, Berkeley . He was then hired as an engineer by the city of San Francisco but eventually quit to become a sports cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle but left only a year later to work with the San Francisco Bulletin. In 1907 he moved to New York where he worked for several newspapers and by 1915, soon found national acclaim as a copious artist. He married Irma Seeman in 1916 and had two children, Thomas and George. When World War II came along, he demanded his sons change their name for their protection as he was receiving hate mail due to his controversial political cartoons. One son became a painter, the other a Hollywood writer and producer. In 1938, Rube Goldberg gave up cartooning and wrote popular articles and stories but returned to editorial cartooning for the New York Sun. Later, he was employed by the New York Journal America until his retirement in 1964 where thereafter he made bronze sculptors.

His cartoon strips were popular but the work that gave him unforgettable lifelong fame was the character he created, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Using the character, he would illustrate inventions that later become known as the “Rube Goldberg Machine”. A “Rube Goldberg Machine” is an extremely complicated device that executes a very simple task in a complex, indirect way. This is now used as an expression to describe any system that's confusing or complicated and came about from Goldberg's illustrations of absurd machines.

The first illustration depicting a “Rube Goldberg Machine” was an Automatic Weight Reducing Machine in 1914 using components such as a donut, bomb, wax, balloon and hot stove to trap an obese person in a sound and food proof prison, who had to lose weight before wriggling free. He used many simple subjects and made them humorous yet awfully complicated and tedious. This included scratching insect bites, scrubbing your back in a bath, opening a window, collecting mail and finding a ball. Read more about the biography of Rube Goldberg

Throughout his career, Goldberg was fascinated by the advancement of technology and thought it humorous as people either embraced change and the benefits technology brought or were reluctant as it seemingly increased dependency and laziness. He personally believed people preferred choosing a more difficult route instead of completing a goal simply and directly. As he said, “the machines are a symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results”. His inventions were interesting as he did the complete opposite of what most machines do – instead of making difficult things easy, he made easy things difficult. On his “Rube Goldberg Machine” work, he would spend over 30 hours on each piece with close attention to precision regarding the lines and details.

The National Cartoonists Society, in which Goldberg was the first president, named the Rueben Award in his honor, to recognize the “Cartoonist of the Year”. In high schools and universities worldwide, there are Rube Goldberg contests which challenge students to create intricate machines to do easy tasks. In 1995, his drawing of “Rube Goldberg's Machines” depicting Professor Butts with the Self Operating Napkin was included in the classic comic strips for the commemorated USA postage stamps.

Goldberg has won awards including 1948 Pulitzer Prize for his drawing about the world being on the edge of nuclear devastation, and has received several awards from the National Cartoonists Society including the Gold T-Square Award in 1955, the 1969 Rueben Award and the Gold Key Award, after his death in 1970. To further add to this list of accomplishments, he won the Banshee's Silver Lady Award in 1959, he was a co-founder of the Famous Artists School , President of the Artists and Writers Club and a member of the Society of Illustrators.

His work has appeared in many shows, with the last one being in 1970 in Washington at the National Museum of American History. This was only a few weeks prior to his death and the show exhibited his lifelong accomplishments and he was the first ever cartoonist to be so privileged. His whole life was spent creating, thinking and inventing. As Rube Goldberg himself once said, “I do not count the years. Tomorrow is just another day to create something I hope will be worthwhile.”

He created several cartoon strips and his works include:

  • The Weekly Meeting of the Tuesday Women's Club
  • Lunatics I Have Met
  • The Candy Kid
  • Mike and Ike
  • Boob McNutt
  • Lala Palooza
  • Foolish Questions
  • Sideshow
  • Father Was Right
  • I'm the Guy
  • They all Looked Good When They Are Far Away