Rube Goldberg

1970 Hall of Fame Inductee: Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg, was born in San Francisco, California in 1883. He became a Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author.

His drawings of absurdly-connected machines accomplishing, by extremely complex, roundabout means, what seemingly could be done simply, has meant that his name has become associated with any convoluted solution to perform a simple task.

His father, a practical man, insisted he go to college to become an engineer. After graduating from the University of California, Rube went to work as an engineer with the City of San Francisco Water and Sewers Department but he soon got a job as an office boy in the sports department of a San Francisco newspaper. He kept submitting drawings and cartoons to his editor, and finally was published. An outstanding success, he moved from San Francisco to New York drawing daily cartoons for the Evening Mail.

Through his “inventions,” Rube Goldberg discovered harder ways to achieve easy results. His cartoons compressed time and were as he said, “symbols of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.” Rube believed that there are two ways to do things, the simple and the hard way, and that a surprisingly number of people preferred doing things the hard way.

Rube Goldberg’s work gave priority to simple human needs and treasured basic human values. He was sometimes skeptical about advanced technology and big science, which contributed to making his own mechanical inventions primitive and full of human, plant and animal parts. While most machines work to make difficult tasks simple, his inventions made simple tasks amazingly complex. Dozens of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups, and rods were put in motion: by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles and live animals for the simple tasks of squeezing an orange for juice, or closing a window if it should start to rain before one gets home.

Rube’s inventions are a unique commentary on life’s complexities. They provide a humorous diversion into the absurd that lampoons the “wonders of technology.” Rube’s hilarious send-ups of man’s ingenuity strike a deep and lasting chord with today’s audience caught in a high-tech revolution but seeking simplicity. © 2000-2011 AskART