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Rube Goldberg Exhibit Opens in Philadelphia

The Art of Rube Goldberg, which celebrates the cartoonist and illustrator best known for his whimsical drawings of overly complicated inventions, opens today, Oct. 12, 2018, at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia.

On view until January 21, it includes a wide spectrum of Goldberg’s art, starting with the early days of his career, which illustrate the origins of his comic style.

“He did about 50,000 cartoons; only a small fraction were invention cartoons that he became famous for” his granddaughter, Jennifer George, said at a press event for the exhibit.

His works became so well known that people would use his name as an adjective to describe real-life devices that seemed patched together in oddly impractical ways and it became an entry in the dictionary.

Goldberg was born in San Francisco and graduated from the University of California Berkeley in 1904 with a degree in engineering. He put that training to use for his best-known creations that, as he described them, were a symbol of  “man’s capacity of exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results.”

Or, as George paraphrased fellow cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s description of her grandfather, “He knew how to get from A to B using all the letters of the alphabet.”

The exhibition features several attractions for adults and kids, including an interactive play area that allows people to try out basic machines and create ones of their own.

On Dec. 9, NMAJH will host one of the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contests, an opportunity for high school students to build a Rube Goldberg-like device. The deadline to enter is Nov. 9

Matthew Brooks is a MetroKids intern and student at Drexel University.

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