Rube Goldberg may be one of only a few early cartoonists to remain a household name. While he is not broadly remembered for his cartoons themselves, Goldberg’s legacy lives on through the complex, impractical inventions his cartoons inspired, which are still known as “Rube Goldberg machines.”

Goldberg created a number of comic titles during his career, but his most popular cartoons were single-panels featuring goofy Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts demonstrating his latest inventions for completing everyday tasks in unnecessarily complex ways. From swatting a fly to getting a shoeshine, Rube’s joyful cartoon schematics take a simple job and turn it into a convoluted and exhausting multi-step assembly line chain reaction, which ultimately allows for the utmost laziness of the user. This silly, whimsical premise caught on, and “Goldbergian” soon became a descriptor for any roundabout way to solve a problem.

The influence of Rube’s cartoons can be seen in pop culture, from Home Alone and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Looney Tunes. Rube Goldberg Machine Contests held by engineering students emerged in the late 1980s, and the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest has been hosted every spring at COSI (Columbus’ own Center of Science and Industry) since 2013. Many students compete in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest each year.  [link: https://www.rubegoldberg.com/learn-about-the-contests/]

Rube Goldberg machine cartoon
Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg Views the News for His Latest Invention
March 31, 1951 (Our Special Quick Letter-Opener)
Ink on paper
Toni Mendez Collection

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