The Historical Events of July 4th 1883


You probably know what happened on July 4th 1776… (Hint: it involved the winning of a revolution and the signing of a famous document that is permanently on display in Washington DC.)

But do you know what monumental occasion took place exactly 107 years later on July 4th 1883? The world was blessed with the birth of Rube Goldberg.

On July 4, 1883, Reuben Garrett Lucius “Rube” Goldberg was born in San Francisco, CA. In his 87 years on this planet, he lived as a cartoonist, engineer, inventor, author, sculptor and scriptwriter. Rube Goldberg is one of the few people who will live on forever as part of the English language. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Rube Goldberg

adjective. Rube Gold·berg \ˈrüb-ˈgōl(d)-ˌbərg\


  1. accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply 

  2. characterized by such complex means

Best known for his cartoons depicting absurdly complex contraptions used to perform simple tasks, Rube started his career as an Engineer, getting his degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1904. Ahead of his time, Rube wrote and made a cameo appearance in a 1930 film called Soup to Nuts, which featured some of his crazy machines and starred the men who would later become known as the Three Stooges.

In 1948, Goldberg was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his cartoons, which have inspired millions of engineers and creatives. The example that instantly comes to mind when I think of Rube Goldberg Machines is the breakfast maker Dick Van Dyke’s character invented in the 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. If your grandma didn’t own this movie on VHS when you were a kid like mine did, then perhaps you’ll remember a similar contraption in Peewee’s Big Adventure.

Rube continues to inspire artists today, like the band OK Go. If you’ve never heard of them, you’d better see for yourself…


Before his death in 1970, Rube Goldberg was interviewed by the Smithsonian and explained where his fascination with these absurd machines came from. It is clear that we still have much to learn from this visionary.

When I was taking a course in analytic mechanics, the professor had a big machine... and you had to find the weight of the earth with this contraption. There was ... nothing more ridiculous to me than finding the weight of the earth because I didn’t care how much the earth weighed. ... I had no idea that this was going to come in handy in my cartoon work later on. I just harken back to this thing and say, ‘This is funny.’ And that’s the way people go to a great extreme to accomplish very little.
— Rube Goldberg / cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, inventor