Rube Goldberg, Inventor (Comic Chronicles)

From the archives: Rube Goldberg machines are serious business

In the June 1923 issue of Popular Science, Rube Goldberg himself writes that he hopes to ‘invent something useful.’


From the Bill Gourgey introduction:

Before the name Rube Goldberg became synonymous with comically over-engineered chain-reaction contraptions that satirize technology, the eponym belonged to a humble engineer turned cartoonist. Born in 1883, Reuben Lucius Goldberg lived long enough to watch the world transform from horse-and-buggies to lunar landers. “We all want to invent something useful,” Goldberg claimed in a humorous but thoughtful piece for Popular Science in June 1923

In 1923, Goldberg, who’d earned a degree at UC Berkeley’s College of Mining and had taken jobs as a sewer designer and a sportswriter, was already a famous and well-compensated New York cartoonist. “My knowledge of science and mechanics is largely responsible for my progress as a cartoonist,” he wrote in Popular Science, feeling compelled to defend his work and affirm his love of engineering and invention. 

In his own words in 1923—and without the benefit of knowing that he would have another nearly half century of cartooning before him—Goldberg lamented, “I still have hopes of inventing something useful.”

From Rube’s Article:

My knowledge of science and mechanics is largely responsible for my progress as a cartoonist. When I was studying mining engineering at the University of California, I took up analytical mechanics. I was introduced to a machine, invented by one of the professors, used to determine the weight of the Earth.

This machine amused me, as it did every other student in the class, and I began to draw pictures of machines of my own that I thought were useless. These fantastic drawings were the beginnings of my career as a cartoonist.

Popular Science presents a Rube Goldberg article from 1923.

Paul C. Tumey presents a grand selection of Goldberg screwball comics.