3 Famous Goldbergs

1. Reuben Goldberg

The man behind the name: Reuben isn't just a famous sandwich, it's also the name of the American early 20th century cartoonist who inked a lot of cartoons depicting complex devices that performed simple tasks in amusing, convoluted ways. Yes, Reuben is the Goldberg behind Rube Goldberg.

Cool Reuben Goldberg fact: He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1904 but not with a fine arts or graphic arts degree, as you might expect, but rather an engineering degree, which clearly came in handy later.

Rube Goldberg on video (wild Japanese Rube Goldberg contest):

variations.jpg2. Johann Gottlieb Goldberg

The man behind the name: Johann was a German harpsichordist in the 18th century. He was also a composer but never achieved any long-lasting recognition. His name would all but be forgotten if another Johann didn't come along: Johann Sebastian Bach. Yes, Johann Goldberg is the Goldberg behind Bach's masterpiece: The Goldberg Variations, which most musicologists say was premiered by Johann Goldberg.

Cool Goldberg Variations fact: In the film The Silence of the Lambs, the "Aria" from the piece is used quite effectively as underscoring during the scene where Lecter breaks out of his courthouse cell.

Goldberg Variations on video: Check out the clip here [WARNING: some of the video, toward the very end, is not for those with weak constitutions] and then below it, be sure to check out this interesting jazz arrangement by Jacquess Loussier of the same "Aria."

whoopi-goldberg.jpg3. Whoopi Goldberg

The woman behind the name: Okay, so we all know who she is, but what about that name? Well, she was born Caryn Elaine Johnson but took the stage name Whoopee because people used to tell her she was so funny, she used to alleviate their flatulence. (I've also heard it was because SHE was rather gassy herself.)

Later she decided Whoopee Johnson sounded too bland, so she picked Goldberg, a name she once said was part of her ancestral line.

Cool Whoopi Goldberg fact: The woman has no eyebrows. None.

My favorite whoopee cushion clip on video:

Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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