According to Sesame Street‘s calendar, January 13 marks the birthday of Rubber Duckie, the bathtub toy of Ernie. The day has since become celebrated as Rubber Ducky Day. Rubber Duckie first appeared on Sesame Street Episode 0078, on February 25, 1970; Ernie was in a bathtub in a room that resembled his living room, and sang the song, “Rubber Duckie.” The most popular version of the song was sung by Ernie in Episode 0136, on November 16, 1970. This time he was in a bathroom with a plain blue background. Jim Henson was the real voice behind the song, and it went to #16 on the Billboard “Hot 100 Singles” chart in 1970 as well. Ernie, either by himself or with other characters, has sung other songs about his rubber duckie such as “Put Down the Duckie,” “D-U-C-K-I-E,” and “Do De Rubber Duck.”
Rubber toys first appeared in the late 1800s, as the rubber industry began to grow. The first rubber ducks were not intended to float, but were instead made to be chew toys. A patent for a “Hollow rubber toy” was filed in 1925 and granted in 1928; it included a picture of a floating duck. Peter Ganine made a sculpture of a duck and then patented it. He filed for his patent in 1947 and received it two years later. Over 50 million of the ducks were sold. By the late 1940s rubber duckies were popular, but Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie” song increased their popularity even more a few decades later.
Nowadays rubber duckies are usually not even made of rubber, but of thick vinyl instead, which is cheaper and more durable. Most are made to squeak and have a bright orange bill. They are sometimes made into characters; some are made to look like they have a profession, or are politicians or celebrities. Some wind up and “swim,” while others glow in the dark, light up, or change color. The largest rubber duck was made by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman in 2007. Its dimensions were 54ft x 66ft x 105ft, and it weighed about 1,300 pounds. Besides people making giant rubber ducks, some people also collect them.