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National Rubber Ducky Day

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.

Rubber duck races take place to raise money all around the world. When people sponsor a duck, money is donated to an organization. Ducks are dumped into a river or other body of water, and the first duck to cross the finish line wins a prize for its sponsor. Hundreds of rubber duck races are held in the United States and internationally. The largest one in the United States is the Freestore Foodbank Rubber Duck Regatta in Cincinnati, Ohio. The rubber duck was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2013. The Hall of Fame "recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period." New toys are added each year.

On January 10, 1992, close to 29,000 Friendly Floatees from a Chinese factory washed off a ship. Friendly Floatees are bathtub toys, and the ones that fell off the ship consisted of yellow ducks, blue turtles, red beavers, and green frogs. Two thirds of the toys floated south and ended up in Australia, South America, and Indonesia. The other third went up to Alaska and then circled back towards Japan. Many became trapped in Arctic ice in the Bering Strait. They moved through it at the pace of about a mile a day, and made it to the North Atlantic in 2000. Some arrived on the Eastern coast of the United States and Canada around 2003 and 2004, and most of the rest of them arrived in the United Kingdom in 2007.

How to Observe

The best way to celebrate the day is to take a bath with a rubber duck. You should also listen to "Rubber Duckie" and watch Ernie singing the song on Sesame Street. You could also look for rubber duck races to sign up for, and read Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost At Sea.

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