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Rube Goldberg
How to Get Rid of an Olive Pit

Ink on paper

An illustration by Rube Goldberg from the book, "The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius." [Image: Heirs of Rube Goldberg]

Excerpt from Books [Review]: Beyond a Man’s Machines: Exploring an Inventor’s Cartoons in ‘The Art of Rube Goldberg’, by Dana Jennings, The New York Times, December 9, 2013

All else aside, though, it’s his Rube Goldberg inventions that made him a lasting cultural presence. Goldberg once said his machines — which he drafted with strict but rollicking precision — were a “symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results.” It sometimes took him as long as 30 hours to execute one single-panel piece.

The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius.
Selected by Jennifer George. 192 pages, about 700 color illustrations. Abrams ComicArts

In the first half of the 20th century, Rube Goldberg was the Thomas Edison of the newspaper comics pages.

His inexhaustible reservoir of elaborate contraptions that mutated simple tasks (lighting a pipe, changing a diaper, killing mosquitoes) into madcap and complicated feats of ingenuity made him a rich and famous star, and an adjective in the American lexicon. As Goldberg, who lived from 1883 to 1970, said in 1930: “In black and white, I consider myself the most prolific inventor in America today. I figure I turn loose roughly 400 inventions a year.”

As “The Art of Rube Goldberg” shows, he was also an all-around cartoon man, not to mention an authentic American eccentric and wiseacre. He could write and draw drama (“Doc Wright”) and humor (“Boob McNutt,” “Lala Palooza”), and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for editorial cartooning (for a shockingly dull and bluff take on the threat of atomic war). During his 72-year career, he produced about 50,000 cartoons. No wonder the National Cartoonists Society’s annual award to the cartoonist of the year is called the Reuben, after Goldberg. By the way, he also designed the statuette, which is much funnier and funkier than any old Oscar or Emmy.

Continued, Books [Review]: Beyond a Man’s Machines: Exploring an Inventor’s Cartoons in ‘The Art of Rube Goldberg’, The New York Times


Additional Information

Rube Goldberg: Selected Biographies on Art in Context

Rube Goldberg: Related Links on Art in Context


Rube Goldberg, American, (1883-1970)
b. July 4, 1883, San Francisco, CA
d. 1970

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