Rubber Ducky Day, We’re Awfully Fond of You

Jan. 13 is National Rubber Ducky Day, an exciting time for those of us at Tervis who smile each morning as we walk past the floating inhabitants of our fountain. Of course, sometimes we can’t just walk by without stopping to have a little fun.

The rubber ducky dates back to the late 1800s –- but the first ones were chew toys that didn’t float. You’ve come a long way, ducky. Now there are duckies modeled after everyone from politicians to superheroes to the Statue of Liberty, wind-up duckies that swim and glow in the dark and LED-illuminated duckies that change colors.

How did they become such an icon? Grab your favorite rubber ducky tumbler as we take a look a some of the great moments in their history.

These lovable toys surged in popularity in 1970, when Ernie (voiced by Jim Henson) sang “Rubber Duckie” in the first season of Sesame Street.

According to the Sesame Workshop website:

The song went on to sell more than 1 million copies as a single and reached number 11 on the Billboard chart in 1971. It was nominated for The Best Recording for Children Grammy in 1970, losing out to The Sesame Street Book and Record, which itself contained the song. Since then, the song has been included on 21 different albums released by the Workshop.

In 1992, a storm-tossed cargo ship accidentally spilled three 40-foot containers holding 29,000 bath toys into the Pacific Ocean, launching a flotilla of yellow rubber duckies, blue turtles and green frogs. Fifteen years later, some of the ducks landed in Scotland -– completing a voyage of 17,000 miles! There have also been sightings in Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Hawaii, South America, Alaska, New England and Canada. They’ve crossed the Bering Sea, been caught in Arctic ice packs and even floated in the area where the Titanic sank. In the process, they’ve helped scientists learn about ocean currents and inspired an Eric Carle book. Hundreds of them continue to travel the seas to this day.

In 2001, a British tabloid claimed that a workman spotted a rubber duck with an inflatable crown in Queen’s bathroom in Buckingham Palace, resulting in a reported 80 percent increase in the sales of rubber ducks in the United Kingdom.

In 2007, the world record for Largest Collection of Rubber Ducks was awarded to Charlotte Lee. At the time, she had 2583 unique rubber ducks. By 2011, her collection had more than doubled to 5631.

2008 was a big year for rubber ducks. That August, another world record was set when 250,000 blue rubber ducks were released into the Thames for the Great British Duck Race. The money raised benefited 449 charities! The very next month, it was reported that a NASA scientist used rubber ducks to study the movement of a Greenland glacier.

In 2013, America rejoiced as the rubber duck rightfully earned its long-overdue induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y.

That joy turned to shock and dismay last month, as the world’s largest inflatable rubber duck -– a 59-foot-tall creation of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman -– mysteriously deflated on New Year’s Eve in Taiwan. Versions of that duck have toured the world since 2007; a 40-footer recently made its U.S. debut in Pittsburgh, where more than 1 million people basked in its awesomeness.

What does the future hold for rubber duckies? We can only speculate about further advances in rubber duck technology, but one thing is for sure: whether you enjoy “tubby time” as a toddler or a relaxing bubble bath as an adult, rubber duckies will continue to delight the youth in all of us around the globe (and in our fountain)!

– Judi Bauer