The rubber duck does not have an exact year when it came into existence, but many people agree that the ducks came after the invention of rubber. Rubber was invented in the late 1800s as an industrial material, so you can do the math.
There are people who insist that the first duck was modelled after Donald Duck from the Walt Disney studios, which puts the data in the 1930s, but this is a debate that has not been settled as of yet. Regardless when ducks first came into existence in the toy market, the constant is that they have survived ever since and their popularity as bathroom toys, children’s toys, and dashboard toys, among other uses, has grown strong and survived through the years.
The commercial success that rubber ducks were going to be had not been discovered until Peter Ganine took out a patent on the rubber duck. After getting the rights to produce the designs using rubber peter Ganine went ahead and sold millions. There have been over 50,000,000 floating rubber ducks sold worldwide since the floating design was made in the 1940s.
With the trend catching on in the 1960s, and with the celebrity culture from pop and rock, it was inevitable that the rubber duck and entertainment would come together. And they did. In 1969 Jim Henson produced a song called ‘Rubber Duckie’. The song went on to gain massive airplay and Jim was making money off the rubber duckie.
Jim Henson would perform the song dressed like Ernie from the cartoon Sesame Street. He followed ‘Rubber Duckie’ up with ‘Do the rubber’ and ‘Duckie’. Jim Henson introduced the rubber duck to the hippie generation, and gave the toy a celebrity component.
The rubber duck has grown from a piece of rubber duck, to a floating duck, to a squeaking rubber duck. The designs have changed as well, as the duck moved from a simple yellow duck with a red beak to devil heads, bride and groom ducks, and other designs in the market.
Despite the changes, the yellow rubber duck remains the most popular form of the toy. The design is so loved that in 2001 it was reported that Queen Elizabeth of the UK had a rubber duck in her bathroom. Her rubber duck wore and inflatable crown. That report led to an 80% spike in the sales of rubber ducks in the UK.
It is safe to say that the rubber duck has many more generations left in it, if its long history is anything to go by.