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Duck, Duck, “DUCK!” - The History of the Rubber Ducky

Heather McClain
90.5 WESA

If you are a resident of Pittsburgh, you have undoubtedly heard about the enormous 40 foot tall rubber duck that is now floating majestically in the river. But where does this iconic bath toy originate from?

According to Joe Wos, Executive Director of the Toonseum, it goes all the way back to the late 1800’s, when regular Saturday baths first became popular. In order to be clean for church on Sunday, the entire family would gather to take their one and only bath of the week. Wos says dips in the tub went from oldest to youngest, Dad went first, then oldest brother, down to the youngest child.

One can imagine how dirty the water was after being used by the rest of the family. As a result, toys became a necessity for coaxing kids into the bath. Unfortunately, so many different people created incarnations of the floating, squeaking rubber duck that we all know today, it is hard to pinpoint one singular person who was responsible for its creation.

In celebration of the first time artist Florentijn Hoffman’s enormous duck has ever been seen in North America, the Toonseum is hosting an exhibit dedicated to ducks in pop culture. The exhibit “Duck!” features some of the most notable cartoon water foul, including Daffy Duck, Donald Duck and a favorite of the 1990's, Darkwing Duck.

Perhaps most relevant to Pittsburgh, is Scrooge McDuck from the Disney television show “Duck Tales.” The show takes place in the fictional city of “Duckburgh,” which Wos says is remarkably similar to Pittsburgh. He goes on to say the stingy, filth rich character of Scrooge McDuck is modeled after our very own Andrew Carnegie.

The enormous duck and corresponding exhibit at Toonseum will remain in Pittsburgh until October 20th, 2013 and is part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s International Festival of Firsts.

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