A rubber duck is a toy shaped like a stylised yellow-billed duck, and it is generally yellow with a flat base. It may be made of rubber or rubber-like material such as vinyl plastic. The yellow rubber duck has achieved an iconic status in Western pop culture and is often symbolically linked to bathing. Various novelty variations of the toy are produced.
Its history is linked to the emergence of rubber manufacturing in the late 19th century. The earliest rubber ducks were made from harder rubber.
Jim Henson popularized rubber ducks in 1970, performing the songs “Rubber Duckie” and “DUCKIE” as Ernie, a popular Muppet from Sesame Street. Ernie frequently spoke to his duck and carried it with him in other segments of the show. On a special occasion, Little Richard performed the song.
Besides the ubiquitous yellow rubber duck with which most people are familiar, there have been numerous novelty variations on the basic theme, including character ducks representing professions, politicians, or licensed individual celebrities. There are also ducks that glow in the dark, change colour, have interior LED illumination, or include a wind-up engine that enables them to “swim”. In 2001, The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper reported that Queen Elizabeth II has a rubber duck in her bathroom that wears an inflatable crown. The duck was spotted by a workman who was repainting her bathroom. The story prompted sales of rubber ducks in the United Kingdom to increase by 80% for a short period.