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When Was Donald Duck Actually Born?

- by -

Bob Bishop

(Founder of The New Dell Comics Club)

Donald Duck's birthday is commonly stated as being 1934 June 9, the day he debuted in the Silly Symphony cartoon "The Wise Little Hen". But that definition of his "birthday" is somewhat specious. Because if someone has to have appeared in a Hollywood film in order to have been "born", then I myself must still be in my mother's womb awaiting my Silver Screen debut!

So, when was Donald Duck really born?

Many years ago I remember seeing a Donald Duck cartoon ("Donald's Happy Birthday") in which Donald's nephews (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) were sitting in their playhouse trying to decide what to get Unca' Donald for his birthday. On the wall was a calendar showing the date: March 13.

(As an aside, the March 13 date also appears on Donald Duck's license plate as the number 313):

So, we now know that Donald Duck was actually born on the thirteenth of March (and not on the ninth of June as is incorrectly supposed). But we still don't know the year in which he was born.

In an attempt to discover his birth year, I dug out my old (first edition) copy of "The Life Of Donald Duck" (published by Random House, 1941). As is stated on the cover, "This is my only Authorized Biography":

While no year of birth was explicitly given, page nine of the book did indicate that Donald Duck was born on a Friday the thirteenth:

To summarize, we know that Donald Duck was born:

  • on a Friday.
  • on March thirteenth.
  • no later than 1941 (The year his biography was published).
And since Walt Disney wasn't born until 1901, it's probably safe to assume that Donald Duck was not around prior to the birth of his creator. So we merely have to figure out which years between 1901 and 1941 had a Friday the thirteenth in March.

A little bit of calculation reveals that there are only six possible years in which Donald Duck could have been born. They are:

1903, 1908, 1914, 1925, 1931, and 1936*

* We can certainly exclude 1936 since it is later than 1934, the year in which Donald appeared
in "The Wise Little Hen". (He couldn't have been in the movie if he hadn't been born yet!)

[Notice that 1934 (his previously alleged birth year) isn't even in the list of possibilities! Neither is 1920, a birth year suggested by Don Rosa.]

I invited a friend to come over and watch my copy of "The Wise Little Hen" on video tape. (In the movie, the hen is looking for someone to help her plant her corn. Peter Pig and Donald Duck both pretend to have belly aches to get out of the chore. So, with help from her chicks, she plants it herself. When harvest time comes, Peter and Donald again claim to have belly aches. But when the time comes for the corn to be eaten, they are both more than willing to "help out" in that chore!)

When the movie ended I asked my friend:

"Based on his actions and attitudes, how old would
you guess the Donald Duck character to be?"
She replied:
"Oh, about 20 or so,"
which was about the same age that I had independently thought.

In conclusion, if Donald Duck was about 20 years old when he appeared in his 1934 film, and if he was born on March 13 in either 1903, 1908, 1914, 1925, or 1931, then we can state with a fair degree of certainty that he must have been born on:

1914 March 13

That would make him 92 years old at the time of this writing (mid March of 2006, just a few days after his birthday).

Happy Birthday, Unca' Donald!

May you live for another 92 years!

. . . And I'm sure he will!




( Update: On 2014 March 13, Donald
Duck celebrated his 100th birthday!
)

A question for future research: Where was Donald Duck born? ("The Life Of Donald Duck" book states that he was born on a rainy night. It would be interesting to do an historical search of the weather to find out where it was raining on the night of 1914 March 13.)


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