Cartoonist, sculptor, writer, engineer and inventor
Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg , known best as Rube Goldberg, was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor.
Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways, giving rise to the term Rube Goldberg machines for any similar gadget or process. Goldberg received many honors in his lifetime, including a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning in 1948 and the Banshees’ Silver Lady Award in 1959.
Goldberg was a founding member and the first president of the National Cartoonists Society, and he is the namesake of the Reuben Award, which the organization awards to the Cartoonist of the Year. He is the inspiration for various international competitions, known as Rube Goldberg Machine Contests, which challenge participants to make a complicated machine to perform a simple task.
Goldberg’s father was a San Francisco police and fire commissioner, who encouraged the young Reuben to pursue a career in engineering. Rube graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1904 with a degree in Engineering and was hired by the city of San Francisco as an engineer for the Water and Sewers Department. After six months he resigned his position with the city to join the San Francisco Chronicle where he became a sports cartoonist. The following year, he took a job with the San Francisco Bulletin, where he remained until he moved to New York City in 1907, finding employment as a cartoonist with the New York Evening Mail.
The New York Evening Mail was syndicated to the first newspaper syndicate, the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, giving Goldberg’s cartoons a wider distribution, and by 1915 he was earning $25,000 per year and being billed by the paper as America’s most popular cartoonist. Arthur Brisbane had offered Goldberg $2,600 per year in 1911 in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to move to William Randolph Hearst‘s newspaper chain, and in 1915 raised the offer to $50,000 per year. Rather than lose Goldberg to Hearst, the New York Evening Mail matched the salary offer and formed the Evening Mail Syndicate to syndicate Goldberg’s cartoons nationally.
Goldberg was syndicated by the McNaught Syndicate from 1922 until 1934.
A prolific artist, Goldberg produced several cartoon series simultaneously, including Mike and Ike (They Look Alike), Boob McNutt, Foolish Questions, What Are You Kicking About, Telephonies, Lala Palooza, The Weekly Meeting of the Tuesday Women’s Club, and the uncharacteristically serious soap-opera strip, Doc Wright, which ran for 10 months beginning January 29, 1933. The cartoons that brought him lasting fame involved a character named Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. In that series, Goldberg drew labeled schematics of the comical “inventions” that would later bear his name. Professor Butts was based on a couple of college professors he studied with (and found boring) while earning his degree from the College of Mining and Engineering at the University of California from 1901-1903 Samuel B Christie and Frederick Slate.
From 1938 to 1941, Goldberg drew two weekly strips for the Register and Tribune Syndicate: Brad and Dad (1939-1941) and Side Show (1938-1941).