Rube Goldberg founded the National Cartoonists Society in the 1940’s along with his cartoonist friend Clarence D. Russell, who first came up with the idea. They were then going around hospitals doing chalk talks, a popular vaudeville act, on behalf of the United Service Organization (USO). In one of their travels, Clarence Russell was quoted as having said that every other trade has a club to belong to, hence, he suggested that they should start one for cartoonists. Rube Goldberg was hesitant at first, but he eventually conceded after much prompting from Clarence, whom their cartoonist friends fondly called C.D. On March 1, 1946, what was formerly known as The Cartoonists Society was founded. On that first meeting, twenty-six cartoonists came and voted on their officers. Of course, Rube Goldberg was voted in as the Society’s first president. The other officers elected were Russell Patterson (vice president), C. D. Russell (secretary), and Milton Caniff (treasurer). He was awarded the Society’s Gold T-Square Award, their Gold Key Award, and the Reuben Award, which was, as previously mentioned, an award named after himself. He was also credited as one of the co-founders of the Famous Artists Cartoon School, a correspondence art school located in Westport, Connecticut. He also taught a number of courses there.
For a long time, Rube Goldberg made people laugh in print, on stage, and on the air. His drastic move from cartoonist to magazine writer in 1934 surprised the newspaper industry. However, this was just characteristic of Goldberg, who was always an iconoclast and discoverer. It was reported that he never once hired anyone to give him comic ideas or jotted down funny conversations he would overhear. He had always wanted to create something of his own. He returned to editorial cartooning for the New York Sun. He also worked with the New York Journal America until he retired in 1964. It was after his retirement from publishing that he became a sculptor.
Despite the barriers that Rube Goldberg had to break through painstakingly throughout his career, he was able to achieve what many can only wish of accomplishing in their lifetime. His name can no longer be erased and is in fact immortalized in many different ways. His life and work is now embedded in a wide variety of media.
In 1948, he won the Pulitzer Prize. This was awarded to him for his political cartooning. In 1959, another honor was given him through the Banshees’ Silver Lady Award.
Other than his significant contributions in vintage comics and print, his work also spawned games and films. One example of such is the board game Mouse Trap, which was launched by Ideal Toy Company in 1963, a couple of years before Rube Goldberg passed away.
Although the original design of the game is attributed to Hank Kramer, the inspiration behind what was originally named the Mouse Trap Game was Professor Butts’ many devices. The game itself had its spinoffs—Crazy Clock and Fish Bait. Today, video games inspired by Rube Goldberg’s creations also exist. Among them are Little Big Planet 1 and 2 as well as Incredibots and Crazy Machines.
In 1916, Rube Goldberg married Irma Seeman, with whom he had two children. Their names were George and Thomas. However he required his sons to drop the Goldberg name for security reasons. Thus, they had to change their last name to—believe it or not—George. During the period of the second World War, Rube Goldberg was receiving death threats by mail because of his political cartoons. Although the Goldberg sons were kept from carrying the name for their own good, this did not stop them from taking after their father’s creative genius. Thomas George thrived in his career as a painter while George W. George worked his way up Hollywood to become a writer and producer.
In his lifetime, Rube Goldberg was heralded as the “Dean of American Cartoonists.” His wife, Irma, was later recognized as the “Mother of the National Cartoonists Society.” In fact, she received this title as an honorary Reuben Award.
Rube Goldberg died in Hawthorne New York on December 7, 1970. He was 87 years old. While his sons kept the last name “George,” Rube Goldberg’s grandchildren run a company named after him to honor the Goldberg heritage.