Who among us has never had a rubber duck? Those floating yellow bath toys have been popular for such a long time that we rarely question where they came from. In fact, most people would probably assume that rubber ducks came from Ernie’s iconic “Rubber Duckie” song on Seasme Street almost 50 years ago. And while it’s true that the song did a lot to popularize rubber ducks, the origin story of that toy goes back much further. Even now, some aspects of its history remain a mystery.
Via the Awesomer, the YouTube channel Today I Found Out has posted a video that offers a deep dive into the backstory of rubber ducks. It all started with the accidental discovery of vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear, whose name you may know from the tire company that was christened in his honor. The first rubber ducks were created years later as chew toys for dogs and infants, or even decoys for hunters.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this video is that there isn’t a definitive answer as to when rubber ducks became bath toys, or even why. The video puts forth a kind of depressing theory from Joe Wos of Pittsburgh’s Toonseum that rubber ducks were used to entice children into the filthy bathwater that had already been used by their parents and older siblings during the late nineteenth century.
However, the floating rubber ducks as we know them come from Peter Ganine, an artist who trademarked them and sold them in the 1940s, over two decades before Jeff Moss and Jim Henson‘s “Rubber Duckie” song on Seasme Street solidified their place in pop culture history.
The video also goes over a few key moments of rubber duck history, including an incident from 1992 which unleashed thousands of rubber ducks into the ocean. Now that’s one hell of a bathtub!
What’s your favorite rubber duck memory? Let us know in the comment section below!
Image: Sesame Workshop