Rube Goldberg - First President of the National Cartoonists Society

Goldberg was not only one of the founders of the National Cartoonists Society but he was also the first president of the organization. This may not exactly be an award but it was a great achievement and act of recognition for one to be given such an important role in such a great society.

Even if he did not receive any more cartooning awards, his place in the cartooning industry was already set as soon as he became its most important organization’s president. Still, Rube Goldberg was just too important and too talented to be forgotten. He was still rewarded with special prizes. His position was not just honorary.

It was his stint as the president of the National Cartoonists Society that is best-known, however. After all, the organization has been assigned the role of advancing the skills of member cartoonists.

The National Cartoonists Society was founded to provide a venue for the concerns and goals of cartoonists. It is not a labor union. The organization was designed to be a guide to cartoonists who would like to continue and improve their profession. Its foundation was a very important step in the cartooning industry. Since Reuben Goldberg was a founding member and the first honorary president, he had secured a vital position in the history of cartooning.


One of the best ever awards that a cartoonist can get is the Reuben, which is Rube Goldberg’s namesake. It is handed out by the National Cartoonists Society and is also considered to be the highest award that could ever be given to a cartoonist of any genre. There is no need to be a member of the society to be chosen for the award. So, people who follow the winners of the awards can be assured that those who are rewarded are really the best cartoonists of the years they represent and not just the best from the society. Anyway, this is the case with all the other National Cartoonists Society awards. The society members will consider members and non-members alike.

Embraced by the Brotherhood

To be recognized by fellow cartoonists in the society is truly an achievement in itself. Members of the National Cartoonists Society have always strived to take cartooning to a new level. These are people who know what to look for in a good piece of art and how to choose the right artist.

Choosing the Awardee

So, how does the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year get chosen? Well, society members choose by secret ballot. It may be argued that when it comes to ballots, there is a certain degree of politics included. Well, there is that too but non-Society members still got chosen for the award and the award’s namesake did not even get immediately chosen.

The award was not always called the Reuben. It was called the Billy DeBeck Memorial Award. The winner received a silver cigarette box as a token of appreciation for his cartooning prowess. The best thing about the change in the name of the award is that it was named after Reuben Lucius Goldberg himself. So, the award was not just a namesake of Rube Goldberg but actually one that was specifically named after him. The award was christened its present name in 1954 though Rube Goldberg himself received the honors in 1967, more than a decade afterwards.

If you would look closely at the statuettes that were given out during the awards, they were actually based on one of the wacky and irreverent works made by Rube Goldberg himself. It must have been fun to be recognized by the awards that have been inspired by his own contributions in the field of cartooning.
In the National Cartoonist Society’s official website, each of the winners has a sketch of themselves according to their style of drawing cartoons. The way Rube Goldberg’s face was sketched was well-detailed in keeping with his style as a cartoonist. There were many lines used to illustrate his face. Rube Goldberg’s cool and laidback personality was pretty clear in the sketch.

Reuben Lucius Goldberg was the first president of the society. The society saw him not only as a leader but also as an excellent cartoonist. Not every talented cartoonist gets a chance to be recognized as the best of the year. Thankfully, Goldberg was given the honor three years before his death. Not every extraordinarily talented person, in whatever field, is able to enjoy recognition while they are still alive. In history, there are many artists – painters and poets – that never got the recognition that they well-deserved in life.

Goldberg’s very first name is already associated with the award-giving body. This showed that his name was already synonymous with excellence long before he was granted the award.


The Gold Key Award is like a combination of his Reuben Award (excellence), Pulitzer (honor) and Gold T-Square (longevity). Add up his position as the first honorary president for the National Cartoonists Society and that would be leadership. So, Reuben Lucius Goldberg was truly a legend even before he received the Gold Key Award. The Gold Key was just an affirmation. The affirmation may have come too late for Rube Goldberg himself but family and friends were happy to know just how much he was appreciated. Of course, the powerful combination of his past awards should have shown Goldberg that he was already very much appreciated by the people who belong in the industry as well as by his fans.

The Value of the Recognition

As was already mentioned in the brief rundown of his life, Rube Goldberg died in 1970. A decade later, he was given the prestigious Gold Key Award. This posthumous award is very important because it basically includes the cartoonist-engineer into the National Cartoonists Society of Hall of Fame.

Why Only People Have Been Awarded

Understandably, the Gold Key Award is still pretty young compared to other cartooning awards. It had to wait out the careers of some cartoonists before it could hand out hall of fame stamps on some of the best cartoonists ever. Compared to the Gold T-Square, it did focus more on the quality of contributions and the cartoonist’s impact on the field more than the years that he was able to work as a professional cartoonist. Rube Goldberg had the years and the talent that enabled him to win both golden awards.

The Gold Key Award was only first given out in 1977, seven years after Rube Goldberg had already died. At least, the people behind the ballots and voting still considered the cartoonist-engineer even though there were other excellent cartoonists that were still living then, in the year 1980.

Bittersweet Award

It was one of the ultimate honors that could be given to any cartoonist. Rube Goldberg had become a Hall of Famer. He would forever be seen as one of the best cartoonists of all time. The problem was that he was not able to witness the smiles and the pride of the people who handed him the award. Considering Rube Goldberg’s attitude towards his craft and towards his life in general, this was not really much of a problem.

Rube Goldberg did not really have any regrets with his change of profession. When he was still alive, he was able to entertain thousands if not millions of people. He had also been recognized by several award-giving bodies. Even the Pulitzer had turned its wandering eyes on him. He had also been awarded the prestigious Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year of the award with a trophy that was based on his own design and with the name of the award actually taken after him. Still, it would have been nice if he were able to hear his name being called when he was declared a Hall of Famer; his family would have been so proud.


Honors are not limited by awards that hand out medals and trophies. Wreaths of honor can be given out through other means. Not long before Rube Goldberg died, there was an exhibit that was held in his honor in the Smithsonian in Washington DC. The display was supposed to look back to the works that he was able to contribute to the world of cartooning, and art in general. Rube Goldberg was a man who had contributed more than fifty years of his life to professional cartooning and other art forms. So, he was able to come up with several pieces for everyone to enjoy. It was an exhibit worth visiting.

The Significance of the Exhibition

Again, the exhibit was set up weeks before Goldberg died. At least, he was able to witness a retrospective look at his career as a professional cartoonist. Imagine yourself as a cartoonist or any other professional with a job that requires you to produce quite a number of works throughout your lifetime. You surely would want to see your life’s works being line up in front of you, making you remember the best times as well as all the struggles that were involved in the creation of your works. Of course, it would be a great experience, something that you would want to be part of. Before Reuben Lucius Goldberg close his eyes and made his final goodbyes, he was able to see just how well he was appreciated, not just by people who were part of the society but also by others who were just there at the exhibit to appreciate art.

How important is it for someone’s art to be included in the Smithsonian Institute, anyway? The Smithsonian Institute is a world-class museum that features all sorts of exhibits. The exhibits vary in themes, topics, and purposes. Admission is free. So, anyone who is interested in watching can just go in and take in the breathtaking sights.

The Effects of a Smithsonian Display

Even the past can seem a lot more sophisticated when the Smithsonian is in charge of displaying it. Rube Goldberg’s works consist of a lot of invention comics, as well as some wacky and political ones. He also sculpts. Some of his works would fit well into some really fantastical-looking steam punk exhibits. However, he had an exhibit all too himself, which was not really a surprise considering his longevity as a cartoonist. He had a lot to offer without having to be part of a collection with other artists.

The Smithsonian exhibit may not really be an award, in the sense that no trophy or medal was given away, but it was worth more than some awards. The whole setup is more than just an award; it was a trip to memory lane to honor someone who has done so much for the National Cartoonists society as well as to people who love being entertained by cartoons or who love absorbing new ideas.


Reuben Lucius Goldberg was a man of many talents. Despite the fact that he was only following his father’s desire by going into engineering school, he managed to graduate and land a pretty good job during his time, as a sewer system engineer.


It was not the life he wanted to live, though. So, he bravely sought cartooning jobs. There were numerous failures before he was able to reach the point of excellence. In fact, his first success was not really due to the publishers’ being able to recognize his talent. Newspaper publishers only handed him a regular stint because they discovered that it would be profitable to include color and pictures into newspapers.

Strength of Character

A weaker man would have given up due to the early years of failure and disillusion. Maybe this weaker man would have thought that his father was right and would come running back to his engineering profession. Rube Goldberg, however, remained as a cartoonist, not minding having to perform odd jobs.


Rube Goldberg’s hard work paid off. Later on, his works were syndicated. Then came the big-time Pulitzer and the position at the National Cartoonists Society. The rest had become part of his illustrious history. With his sense of humor, exposure to politics and knowledge of physics, he churned out diverse cartoons. They were always original and fresh that even near the end of his life, he was given a Silver Lady by a popular luncheon group from New York City.

The other awards came, as well. They were years apart. Still, each award had further stamped the image of the smiling Rube Goldberg in the history books for cartoonists. He was a man who had made such an impact in the world of cartooning that he would be remembered more for his actual contributions than for his awards. The awards were the icing on the cake.


Rube Goldberg’s fame as a cartoonist could easily be recognized through the plentiful works of art that he had been able to produce. However, it was one US commemorative stamp, prepared by people who recognized his contributions to cartooning, which was able to strengthen his position as one of the most revered and most popular cartoonists of all time. In one stamp, his famous self-operating napkin is featured. You can read more about what this machine can do in the Ten Best Rube Goldberg Machines. The so-called invention machine is considered one of Goldberg’s most well-known contraptions.