Rube Goldberg, part 2

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As a continuation of last Saturday's post on Rube Goldberg, here are four more tidbits that you may not know about the man who coined the phrase, "I don't know from nothin'!"

4. Goldberg, like many artists, originally pursued a more practical profession: engineering. He received a degree in engineering from the University of California's College of Mining at Berkeley and worked for the city of San Francisco for 6 months. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Goldberg joked that his work for the city's water system was to blame for the resulting fire.

5. "Soup to Nuts," a feature film written by Goldberg that incorporated some of his machines and sculptures, was the film debut of the Three Stooges. At the time, though, the trio was comprised of Shemp Howard, Harry (Moe) Howard, and Larry Fine; Curly later replaced his older brother Shemp.

6. Very little of Goldberg's work, other than his cartoons depicting Rube Goldberg devices, is available on the Internet. However, he was much more than just a cartoonist. He is listed in various sources as a cartoonist (humorous and political), author, engineer, inventor, essayist, poet, playwright, vaudeville actor, radio and TV star, and sculptor. Goldberg only began sculpting at the age of 80, when he retired from cartooning.

7. Both Rube Goldberg's birth and death fell on distinctly American holidays: he entered the world with a bang on Independence Day, July 4, 1883, and passed away 87 years later on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1970.

A larger version of the Rube Goldberg sculpture The Jury, shown above, is available here.

Fans should check out the Rube Goldberg official site; Goldberg's autobiography; his interview in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art; and some of his other sculptures photographed for LIFE.

Through a joint venture between Google and LIFE, the LIFE photo archive is now available online. To see other images from the archive, through browsing or searching, click here.

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January 17, 2009 - 7:07am
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