Saturday, June 17, 2017


One of my favorite newspaper cartoonists of the WWI era was the great Rube Goldberg. Unfortunately for Rube he's mostly remembered for the "Rube Goldberg Device" where a chain of events eventually causes a bucket of water to tip over and fill the thirsty man's glass. That's all clever and appealing but it's not the man's best work. If you've only seen the inventions, then read on. You're in for a treat! Be sure to click to enlarge!

The poses in "I'm Cured" (above, topmost) are terrific, especially the running pose on the upper right corner. When I first saw it I was so inspired by the jacket that I ran out to a thrift shop and bought one just like it. The thing rides way up in the back and when I raise my hands up the jacket shoulders stay up there, even after I put my arms down again. What a find! I still have it.

And how do you like the thinking poses on the strip above? That's how I feel when I'm thinking. I feel smarter just looking at it.

Aaaah! Refreshed at the fountain of Goldberg! For me these four panels (above) are art, suitable for a museum. I love the running poses on the bottom! Rube's universe is all about ordinary people. Not handsome men and beautiful women, just ordinary people doing the best they can.

Rube, who was tall himself, did great tall people. I love the placement of trees (above) behind the guy.

How do you like the arms on the woman above? The simple staging, deliberately stiff pose, and obsessively horizontal lines in the shadows make the picture even funnier.

That's Rube on the lower left. Goldberg always said that he had a great childhood and this photo bears that out. But where's his mother?


Andreas said...

I love Rube Goldberg's drawings in the Famous Artists School cartooning course. I hadn't known anything about him before I picked up a copy of the course. There is one in there where he drew a student getting his diploma with one hand, and holding a caricature of the dean behind his back in the other. Great humor. Great political cartoonist too. Thanks for sharing so much gold with us humble mortals.

Jenny said...

Hee...very fun stuff!
I collect photographs from this era; when possible I try for the most candid and expressive ones I can find--and it ain't easy as it was expensive(generally)to have a picture taken. People were usually formally dressed up and had to hold very still, precluding a lot of spontaneous merriment.
A family group like this is a real's just fantastic. I love the Goldbergs! : )

Yeah, and his drawings are neat too.

Stephen Worth said...

Here's a whole pile of Rube Goldberg Sunday pages.

See ya

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: Seeing Goldberg's family portrait makes me understand why you collect things like that. The best examples are incredibly inspiring!

Steve: Those pages aren't from Goldberg's golden age which spans (I'm guessing) from 1904 to 1917, but they're still well worth reading. Thanks for the great link!

Jennifer said...

Wow, I just learned something today! I thought that Rube Goldberg was an inventor of crazy things. I didn't even know he was an animator!

I love that family portrait. Portraits of that era are so serious or melancholy, and this one is a great exception. The Goldberg family looks like a family that likes to have fun.

S.G.A said...

I've never sen an olde tyme family portrait where anyone smiled... I thought that that was considered out of fashion in those days... that's really cool.

Lester Hunt said...

Rube Goldberg was from San Francisco, a fact that Herb Caen sometimes referred to in his column when I was kid. Only knowing the pictures of the machines, I sorta wondered why he seemed to be busting with pride when he said that... Now I know! (They both worked for the Chronicle, though of course at different times.) Thanks for the education, Eddie! My slow creep toward enlightenment continues!

Kali Fontecchio said...


Kent B said...

Eddie, it's funny that you say Goldberg's "Golden Age" was from 1904-1917. So in the '30s, people would be saying how "bad" cartoons were in their present time, they were so much better 30 years ago. It reminds me of how we all whine about how everything was better in the '40s and '50s - and it's all crap today.

Now the thing is - it's probably all true! In Goldberg's "Golden Age" people probably whined about how everything was crap, and everything was so much better back in the 1890s.

Anonymous said...

Rube's family is probably smiling because they just ate the mother.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Hey- wait maybe that is the mom!

Lester Hunt said...

"In Goldberg's "Golden Age" people probably whined about how everything was crap, and everything was so much better back in the 1890s."

Yes, we can find people back in the good ol' days looking back nostalgically to the even better, older days, which does seem silly. But this doesn't necessarily mean that we humans have an incurable tendency to whine. (Actually, we do, but I don't think this is the reason.) I think art and entertainment tend to have cycles, just like the stock market. Looking back to late 'fifties TV, when I Love Lucy, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Twilight Zone were all running, it seems like a Golden Age. And it was, but there have been more Golden Ages, and more Dark Ages since then. It's probably often true that things are worse than they used to be. Whether it is true depends on whether you're sitting on a peak or down in a slump.

Anonymous said...

Kent B., what Eddie is saying is that Goldberg's Golden Age was 1904-1917. I don't think he is saying animation was better in 1904-1917, but Newspaper Com ic Strips. But even so, Comic Strips from the 1930s ARE a hell of a lot better than today's. I mean, compare Popeye to Garfield.

Jenny said...

You know what? I think(seriously)that people in the 1890s(when this picture was taken, I believe)didn't gripe about the "good old days". As much of a human impulse as it is to be nostalgic, it was in this period--the Belle Epoque(or whatever)of the USA that generally there was tremendous optimism. People were well aware of the incredible wonder and advantages they had with: telephones/telegraphs, motors(as in nascent cars), running hot water, indoor plumbing(whch not everyone had by any means even by 1901), good free education for the young, plentiful industry, availability of food, entirely new things like canned food and Coca-cola w/cocaine, certain modern goes on & on. Finally there was for the burgeoning middle class a real possibility of home ownership and decent leisure time for families like the Goldbergs here, to enjoy life more & have FUN.

Far from what we'd think of as perfect(the Triangle factory fire and events like that--well, there were loads of troubles of course with labour and union-busting and exploitation), of course...but I cannot really imagine, nor have I read, of a 1900 man complaining that things were better 20 years earlier. Life was so hard for americans in the 18th century.
{see what a bore I can be, Kent?} ; D

Jenny said...

...and another thing(!):

Goldberg and the many many cartoonists like him had thousands of forums to be published and funny whilst not being "slick" artists at all.

There were the exquisitely skilled, polished cartoonists/illustrators a la McCay and Nast, Frost, Sullivant--etc.--but three was also in the early 1900s-1920s room for a Goldberg or a bunch of other "Mutt & Jeff"-style guys with a more crude style that suited their POV perfectly.

(Now we just get poor drawing, in the "funnies", it seesm--for the most part.)

Anonymous said...

Eddie: I had always wanted to see his other works. Like you said at the beginning, I've only seen his machine drawings. They are funny.

This is a silly question, I know, have you done any comic strips?

I'd like see your thinking process in making cartoons. If you wouldn't mind, that is. Like John did in his post.

I could see what his thinking process was by studying his notes and viewing the cartoons at the same time. It helped me understand a little better.

John said in his post and in your's, that you are gifted in writing cartoons. I was just wondering what you did to come up with ideas for cartoons.

A.B. Winegar

Marc Deckter said...

Thanks for posting these Eddie! I've never seen this early Rube Goldberg work before. I like the first two cartoons the best.

Stephen Worth said...

Goldberg had a long and varied career. In his later years, he became an editorial cartoonist and won Pulitzers for his work. His work on the Famous Artists Course was invaluable. He didn't go downhill by any means, though you might prefer one type of his work better than another.

See ya

Shawn said...

Wow, Eddie, that is really great cartooning! I need to seek out more of his strips! I love it!

Jenny and Kent, I think when people are on the subject of "the good old days" in these blogs, they are mostly reguarding the subject of cartooning or entertainment from the good old days--probably not about life in general. If folks from the 1930's were nostalgic for comic strips from 1901 or 19th century, that doesn't necessarily mean they would also be nostalgic for hardship times they were forced to endure before they had the benefits Jenny mentioned (telephones/telegraphs, motors, running hot water, indoor plumbing..etc..)--Jenny, you're right..they were most likely incredibly optimistic (and greatful) for how their lives and times had changed for the better by the 1930's..However, I could still imagine there would be folks who missed the style of entertainment or comics from 20-30 years earlier. I can tend to be a curmudgeon (as well as John or Mike) about media, arts, comics, architecture and so on--prefering those things from the 1920's, 30's & 40's...but, I wouldn't say I'm nostalgic for EVERYTHING those times brought. I'll say we are all blessed that we never had to starve during the Great Depression, or WWII; we have much more leisure time today than ever before (we don't even need to walk to the Library anymore..I can sit on my lazy ass in front of the computer to find anything I want)...but I still love how things LOOKED back then, moreso than anything today. Maybe people back then felt the same way, while still counting their blessings.

Anonymous said...

what do you think of the feud between Ted Rall and Art Spiegalman?

Max Ward said...

I find it hard to believe that these were once all just sitting in newspapers, probably taken for granted every Sunday. They really are funny, insightful, and artistic. To me, unable to put myself in the perspective of a time when these were in newspapers, believe this kind of cartooning only exists in textbooks and museums. As if they were not originally made to solely entertain.

Andreas said...

Something mentioned in the Famous Artists School Cartooning course, Rube Goldberg is the source of the way we use the term "Baloney" as illustrated in the third strip posted.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kent: Maybe Rube's Golden Age extended into the mid or even late 20s. I'm not sure.

Lester, Kent: I'm a believer in golden and dark ages. It implies a value judgement but I don't think that's wrong. We can always change our minds if new information about those times comes to light.

Jenny: Lol! An interesting list!Have you ever read Otto Bettman's "The Good-Old Days: They Were Terrible!"? He put up similar lists.

Until a short time ago I also regarded Goldberg's style as primitive but I don't anymore. Mutt and Jeff only had a brief creative period but Goldberg's lasted for almost two decades. I think the reason was that Goldberg was more analytic, more thought out. In his best period (before 1930) Goldberg was a thinking man's artist disguised as a primitive one.

Anon: Spiegalman seems over-rated to me, though I did like his idea of silkscreening Panter's cover for Raw #1. I don't know if he's the kind of monster Rall made him out to be but it's not impossible. Rall had a lot of courage to print what he did.

Shawn: I'll put up more Goldberg sometime soon!

Anonymous said...

I am learning about famous people in school and I chose to look up him He is amazing I love all of rubes pictures they are so interesting

-amy r.

Joe Wehrle, Jr. said...

I married into a set of the Famous Artists Cartoon Course 44 years ago, with all the Rube Goldberg, Caniff, Haenigsen, etc. art. Wife deceased as of last fall, but I'm hanging onto several of her own charming cat comic strips. And one of my favorite Rube Goldberg series is FOOLISH QUESTIONS. The questions aren't particularly funny, but the replies are hilarious! Somebody has just reprinted the 1907 book. Joe