The origin of the rubber duck is not known, but its history is inevitably linked to the emergence of rubber manufacturing in the late 1800s. The earliest rubber ducks were made from harder rubber and lacked squeakers. The yellow rubber duck has achieved an iconic status in American pop culture and is often symbolically linked to bathing or bath tubs and bubbles and to babies and toddlers.
Jim Henson popularized rubber ducks in 1970, performing "Rubber Duckie" as Ernie, a popular Muppet from Sesame Street. The song had two follow-ups, "Do de Rubber Duck" and "DUCKIE," and Ernie frequently spoke to his duck and carried it with him in other segments of the show. The song "Rubber Duckie" and many of the characters of the show were done by Jim Henson.
As the rubber duck has grown in popularity over the years, many variants are sold, including "devil ducks," "dead ducks," and "bride and groom" ducks.
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.
Rubber ducks are collected by a small number of enthusiasts in countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, United States, and the Netherlands. The 2007 Guinness World Record for World's Largest Rubber Duck Collection numbered 2,583 unique rubber ducks was awarded to Charlotte Lee of Duckplanet.com.