Birthday: July 4, 1883
Died At Age: 87
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, Reuben Lucius Goldberg, Reuben L. Goldberg
Born in: San Francisco, U.S.
Famous as: Cartoonist
Spouse/Ex-: Irma Seeman Goldberg
father: Max Goldberg
mother: Hannah Goldberg
siblings: Garrett Goldberg
children: George W. George, Thomas George
Died on: December 7, 1970
place of death: New York City
U.S. State: California
City: San Francisco, California
Founder/Co-Founder: National Cartoonists Society
education: 1900 - Lowell High School, University of California, Berkeley
Who was Rube Goldberg?
Reuben Garrett Lucius also known as Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist, author, engineer and sculptor. He got interested in drawing from a young age and wanted to pursue a career in the field of arts. However, he pursued a degree in Engineering following his father’s advice. Very soon, Rube Goldberg followed his passion and began a career as a cartoonist, and garnered a huge fan following. He was popular for his political cartoons as well as satirical work on the obsession people had with technology during that period. Rube Goldberg’s cartoons had such a wide reach, that during the World War II he received death threats for his political cartoons. It is considered that he created around 50,000 cartoons in the span of his career. Rube Goldberg was proclaimed as the ‘Dean of American Cartoonists’ during his lifetime. He was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his cartoon titled ‘Peace Today’, which depicted caution against atomic weapons.
Childhood & Early Life
Rube Goldberg was born on 4 July 1883 at California, USA. His father, Max was a San Francisco police and fire commissioner and mother, Hannah, were German Jewish immigrants.
He had six siblings of whom three died at an early age. His older brother Garrett, younger brother Walter and younger sister Lillian were among the survivors.
He was interested in arts from a young age and that turned into a passion by the time he was eight. As a child he used to outline illustrations and began attending classes for drawing at 11.
He completed his schooling from Lowell High School in 1900. Later, he attended the School of Mining Engineering and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Engineering in 1904.
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He was hired as an engineer for the Water and Sewers Department after his graduation. Here, he had to design sewer pipes. He left the job in six months and joined the newspaper San Francisco Chronicle as an art assistant.
The very next year he joined the San Francisco Bulletin as a sports cartoonist and continued the job until 1907. Here he had to make illustrations of sports persons and his work was well received. In 1907, he launched a comic series titled ‘Mike and Ike’ featuring identical twins. Though it did not get instant success, he remained persistent and it eventually became a huge hit among audience.
In 1907, he moved to New York and began freelancing for a few publications. Around this time he was hired as a cartoonist with the newspaper New York Evening Mail. Here he began a single panel comic titled ‘Foolish Questions’ that ran from 1908 to 1934, featuring sarcastic responses to obvious questions. In 1909, he authored and launched a book with the same title.
He used to appear in stage performances with fellow cartoonists and in 1911 started performing as a comedian in Vaudeville. By 1914, he became a playwright as well. The same year he started work on his next comic series project titled ‘Inventions!’ He started this at a time when America was witnessing the beginning of the Age of inventions.
He was fascinated by technology but observed that people often adopt complex means to achieve simple results. This was the source of inspiration for his primary work in the ‘Inventions!’, an illustration of an ‘Automatic Weight-Reducing Machine’. The iconic cartoon illustration went on to be known as the Rube Goldberg Machine.
While working with the New York Evening mail, his cartoons received a wider audience as the newspaper was syndicated to the primary newspaper syndicate in USA named the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. By 1915, he earned the reputation of being one among the most famous cartoonists in the USA.
During this time he received offers from other well-known newspaper chains, however New York Evening Mail raised his salary and formed the Evening Mail Syndicate to give his cartoons an audience throughout the nation.
In 1915, he also took up the project of drawing cartoons to be used in silent movies. However, realizing the scale of work and finding it nearly impossible to complete without help, he dropped the project. The same year he created a cartoon character Boob McNutt. This comic was later syndicated by Star Company and earned a good fan following. He ended this comic in 1934.
In 1934, he shifted his focus from being a cartoonist to taking up magazine writing for a while. However, he returned to cartooning and took up work as an editorial cartoonist with the political newspaper New York Sun and worked there until his retirement in 1964. While working here, he drew a political cartoon on 22 July 1947 that earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1948.
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Post retirement, he became a sculptor. Rube Goldberg along with other cartoonists founded the National Cartoonists Society in 1946. He also served as the first president of the Society and retained the position for two years.
He is best known for his editorial cartoons as well as other cartoons that portrayed complex machines performing simple functions. A few of his best known cartoon series are ‘Foolish Questions’, ‘Inventions!’ and ‘Mike and Ike’.
Awards & Achievements
In 1948, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his political cartoon ‘Peace Today’.
He was awarded the Gold T- Square Award in 1955, for his artistic contributions.
In 1959, he received the banshee’s Silver Lady Award, which recognizes fresh as well as original art.
In 1967, he received the Reuben Award for Best Cartoonist of the year from the National Cartoonists Society, an award that was named after him.
Personal Life & Legacy
On 17 October 1916, Rube Goldberg married Irma Seeman. The couple had two children named Thomas and George.
He died in 1970 at Hawthorne, New York. He was 87 years old at the time of his death.
His grandchildren manage an organization named after him in honour of the Goldberg heritage.
He is the only cartoonist to be listed on the Merriam-Webster as the dictionary adopted the phrase "Rube Goldberg" as an adjective, meaning ‘doing something simple in a very complicated way that is not necessary’.
In 1995, a Reuben Goldberg commemorative stamp was issued in the USA, featuring Goldberg’s Self – Operating Napkin cartoon.
Many popular feature films and shows like the Looney Tunes, Sesame Street, Tom and Jerry, American Dad!, Family Guy, Home Alone film series, etc, have included the ‘Reuben Goldberg’ themed devices in their storyline.