Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

1890

BIRTH

Robert Ripley was born in Santa Rosa, CA on February 22

1908

PUBLISHED CARTOONIST

Ripley sold his first cartoon to LIFE 

1913

THE GLOBE

After some experience at other publications, Ripley was convinced to start working for The Globe

1918

CHAMPS AND CHUMPS

On a slow business day, Ripley drew a cartoon, “Champs and Chumps.” It was published on December 19

1919

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

Ripley created a similar cartoon called Believe It or Not!

1922

TRIP AROUND THE WORLD

The Globe sent Ripley on a trip around the world, during which he uncovered bizarre and unusual people, places and cultures

1949

DEATH

Ripley was on stage, hosting a show when he suffered a heart attack and died at age 55

Mr. Ripley - The World’s Biggest Liar (in the Best Possible Way)

 

During the Great Depression, Mr. Ripley was one of the most popular people in the U.S. thanks to his cartoon, “Believe It or Not,” which appeared in 100 papers nationwide. The cartoon brought badly needed entertainment and diversion at a price most could afford.

 

The Young Artist

Mr. Ripley’s story of success is almost as fantastic as the “Believe It or Not” stories he wrote. Ripley was a talented self-taught artist while still in high school. He became a popular sports cartoonist in NY in the 1910s.

 

The First “Believe It or Not”

On a slow sports day in 1918, Ripley created a cartoon called Champs and Chumps in which nine men performed separate unique sports feats—for example, one stayed underwater for six-and-a-half minutes. In 1919 and 1920, he drew similar cartoons and titled them “Believe It or Not”.

 

It’s All True

Several years later Ripley was at the Evening Post and reintroduced the “Believe It or Not” concept as a way to enliven the stodgy paper. He promised readers that the “Believe It or Not” cartoons were all true, and that he’d “prove the truth” to any who doubted his cartoons.

 

Call Me a Liar

Ripley encouraged people to call him a liar as it feed his growing popularity. People would do so and he would prove that his stories were fact. As time went on, the cartoons were designed to invite more and more controversy and provoke more letters from doubters. His success led to a lecture tour that, in some venues, was titled, “The World’s Biggest Liar.”

 

World Traveler and Collector

He traveled throughout Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa collecting artifacts and stories for his column. His biographer says he was inquisitive since childhood. An early profile writer said Ripley had a “bottomless, off-kilter curiosity.”

 

“Believe It or Not” Becomes a Brand

As the years and decades marched on, he continued to grow the “Believe It or Not” brand. Ripley hired a small staff to do research and secretaries to answer letters. He created “Believe It or Not” books, then hosted a radio show for 12 years, and finally hosted a TV show. The new TV show was cut short when Ripley died on stage at age 55 of a heart attack, bringing a colorful career to an abrupt end.

 

Did You Know?

  • During the first three weeks of May 1932, Ripley received over 2 million pieces of fan mail.
  • Ripley’s collection was first displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.
  • The Ripley collection includes, 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts, and more than 100,000 cartoon panels. Among its more bizarre artifacts are a Chinese shrunken head, a vampire killing kit, and a full-body armor for an elephant.

 

LINKS:

Visual timeline of Mr. Ripley’s Life

Vintage “Believe It Or Not” posts

Lengthy but entertaining article about Mr. Ripley’s life

 


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WRITTEN BY: MOUTH WATERING MEDIA