Rubber Duckie, You’re the One: Beloved Bath Companion Inducted into National Toy Hall of Fame

Floating past other nominees like Nerf toys and the board game Clue.

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Democrat & Chronicle, Carlos Ortiz / AP

A rubber duck is on display during the National Toy Hall of Fame ceremony at the National Museum of Play at The Strong in Rochester, N.Y., Nov. 7, 2013.

Let’s all bathe in the glory of the rubber duck, which just “squeaked” its way into the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., as the Associated Press put it. Chess is also a 2013 inductee, and the two beat out bubbles, the board game Clue, Nerf toys, and green Army men.

As the museum explained the rubber duck’s significance:

With their bright color, smooth texture, and (for some) squeaky or quacky sounds, rubber ducks sharpen toddlers’ senses. Their presence in the bathtub soothes youngsters’ fears of water and water immersion and makes good clean fun of the routine hygiene they’re learning.



Artist Florentijn Hofman’s 54-ft.-tall inflatable rubber duck is pictured in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour on May 2, 2013

The toy’s image has certainly gone viral this year, as Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s giant inflatable rubber duck appeared in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, Taiwan, Sydney, Australia, and most recently, Pittsburgh — its first stop in North America.

In honor of the new hall of famer, here are eight facts you maybe didn’t know about the beloved bath companion.

• The origins of rubber ducks trace back to the late 1800s, when Charles Goodyear nailed the chemical process that makes rubber malleable. Early versions were not much fun, however, more like heavy “chew toys,” as a scholar described them to the New York Times.

In the 1930s, Disney and the Seiberling Latex Products Company made a Donald Duck rubber duck, paving the way for commercially-licensed rubber ducks. By the 1940s, the rubber duck had evolved into a floating toy.

• Sesame Street popularized rubber ducks as a bath toy when the show debuted “Rubber Duckie” on Feb. 25, 1970, in which the orange muppet Ernie, performed by Jim Henson, sings an ode to his beloved companion. The song hit the Billboard charts in 1971, the single sold 1 million copies, plus it was nominated for a Grammy, according to the Sesame Street Workshop.


Or watch Little Richard’s rendition, in which he sat in a bathtub and played it on a piano during the show’s 25th season:


• In January 1992, inclement weather caused 28,800 rubber ducks (plus frogs, beavers, and turtles) on a Taiwan ship en route from Hong Kong to the U.S. to topple overboard. The toys started popping up on the shores of Alaska and Washington state. The 2011 book Moby Duck delves into the origins of the accident to tell a larger story about pollution.

• On Aug. 8, 1981, Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer — nicknamed “Donald Duck” — jumped into a 79° seal tank at the city’s National Aquarium, clutching a rubber duck and wearing a Victorian bathing suit, in a stunt to draw attention to the institution.

• A 2001 Sun tabloid article claimed Her Majesty had a rubber duck with an inflatable crown in Buckingham Palace, citing “a workman” tasked to redecorate the Queen’s bathroom walls.

• Rubber ducks have set records: Charlotte Lee of Huntington Beach, Calif., has held the Guinness World Record for largest rubber duck collection, boasting 5,631 unique ones by April 10, 2011, while on June 5, 2011, Cozi, a Seattle calendar company, set one for the longest line of rubber ducks strung together at 17,782.

• People race the toys to raise money for charity, putting a number at the bottom, dumping them into the water, and the one that floats to the finish line first wins. TIME reported the earliest race, run by a former Arizona real estate broker Eric Schechter in 1988, raised $150,000 for the Scottsdale substance abuse programs, and Schechter went on to found the Great American Duck Races. In fact, rubber duck races are so popular that a bill legalizing rubber duck races has been scheduled for public hearing in the Wisconsin senate this week, after the state’s Department of Justice warned a village that the events are a form of illegal gambling. The events have cheeky names like “Ducktona 500” and “Lucky Ducky Derby.”