Decoder Ring

Rubber Duckie

How hot baths, cheap plastic, and Sesame Street helped make the rubber duck.


Episode Notes

A rubber duckie riding a wave.
Illustration by Benjamin Frisch

Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

In 1992, a container ship spilled 28,800 bath toys into the sea. These “friendly floatees” became the subject of Donovan Hohn’s book: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea & of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists & Fools Including the Author Who Went in Search of Them. Many of these bath toys were rubber ducks, which floated across the oceans for years. On this episode we explore the iconicity of the rubber duck, how it came to be, and why we find them so irresistable.

Some of the voices in this episode include Donovan Hohn, Christopher Bensch, Vice President for Collections at The Strong National Museum of Play, Chris Molanphy, host of Slate’s Hit Parade podcast, Jodie Davis, rubber duck collector, and Craig Wolfe, founder of CelebriDucks.



About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

All episodes