Career and Success as a Sports Cartoonist

Quitting his job as an engineer proved to be the beginning of Rube Goldberg’s success although he had to suffer some rejections first. Later on, he did become the San Francisco Bulletin’s sports cartoonist. He had demonstrated through his works for the newspaper that more people would buy newspapers when they come with colored illustrations. As the publishers realized this, they granted Rube Goldberg a regular stint as a sports cartoonist. This marked the beginning of Rube’s success as a cartoonist. It was also the first time that publishers were able to recognize his worth – well, maybe not entirely his individual worth as an artist but the worth of all cartoonists in the world of publishing – so it was a career highlight.

The sports cartoonist job was not the one that made Goldberg a big name that he had become in later years but it was the beginning of that success. It was the trigger that started making people know who he was.


In a way, syndication is a mark of a comic strip’s success. With syndication, a comic title is simultaneously published into several newspapers or magazines. This was further proof that Rube Goldberg was becoming quite a success as a cartoonist. In 1915, his works started becoming syndicated. This was the point in which Rube Goldberg started becoming famous all over the nation. This fame was boosted by the fact that several newspapers were publishing his cartoons. So, many more people were able to enjoy his offerings.

From the said year to 1922, Goldberg was pretty prolific and had produced all sorts of wacky comics for different newspapers. He was no longer an $8 a week cartoonist. In 1922, he was actually earning $100,000 a year, much more than he was earning as a sewer system engineer. He had proven himself to have made the right choice in terms of industry. Of course, it was also pretty obvious that he had never really thought that this type of success would ever befall him. All he knew when he took the first step away from engineering that he was going for something that he loved. He was not only earning six figures a year but he was also able to while doing something he loved.


Rube Goldberg was born at the right time – 1883, at least when it came to observing what the machine age was all about. He was a teenager during the turn of the twentieth century, at a time when inventors were coming up with all sorts of contraptions that supposedly would make life a lot easier.

The thing was that Goldberg was against many of the modern inventions just as many other people still mistrusted the new machines. Of course, we should be reminded that the turn of the century was a really a turning point for scientist and for human civilization. People started enjoying the perks of using a telephone and the convenience and sanitation of running water. Goldberg was not against inventions in such a way that he was calling out the inventors but he could find the humor in the situation. He was fascinated by how people had become dependent on the newly-invented machines. This fascination gave birth to his most famous character, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. The good professor was really nothing more than a character based on Goldberg himself. Goldberg was a former engineer. So, he had some knowledge in science and how mechanical parts work. Also, Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts was really an anagram for Reuben Lucius Goldberg, the cartoonist-engineer’s full name. Professor Butts was the cartoon version of Goldberg, the one used to express what the cartoonist-engineer felt about modern devices. Goldberg went the satirical way, though. The Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts comic strips were funny because they showed how the inventor designed machines that made life more difficult instead of easier. The inventions of the machine age were supposed to make life a lot easier and more convenient, and to make tasks a lot faster.


Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola became very famous even though he was only really able to accomplish very simple tasks using very complicated methods. Goldberg had made the comic series very comedic that the inventive professor had become quite an endearing character.

Well-Thought Of Contraptions

Do you know that each Gorgonzola contraption was designed by the cartoonist-engineer Goldberg in thirty hours? The whole setup was deceptively simple and could even be mistaken for nothing more than a means to make people smile or have a good laugh. However, each design was actually created with real physics in mind. Goldberg carefully set each contraption up, knowing how one object will be able to do to the one next in line. Each setup could be compared to the domino effect, except that each one was also designed to be humorous. Despite the intricacy of each setup, Goldberg was delivering three inventions per week.

Making Use of the Ordinary

Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts always made use of ordinary household objects and other unexpected and sometimes strange parts to build his inventions. The tasks were simple but the busy professor wanted to make use of his own complicated methods to create a solution to the everyday problem. This was Goldberg’s way of commenting on the actual benefits that modern inventions were contributing to society – on whether there were real benefits to speak of. This was a time when people were worrying about others’ over-dependence on the new machines.

Goldberg’s professor character was a timely one, born during and because of the machine age. So, it was no surprise that it became a hit. People were happy to have a good laugh about a cartoon that was able to present to them the issues of the day.

Making Life a Lot More Complex

The professor character meant well each time he thought up of a new machine but he ended up doing the opposite of what an invention should be. People invent things to make life easier. Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola invents things to make life more interesting – and funnier, too.


The invention cartoons proved to be Goldberg’s highlight of all career highlights. If you mention the Rube Goldberg’s name today and even during his own time, the first things that would come to most people’s mind would be his invention cartoons. In fact his name had become synonymous to any easy task that had to go through a difficult process. In literature, his name signified a minor plot point that somehow makes itself big as the story progresses. Continue to next page.