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Ripley's Believe It or Not


"RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT." Robert LeRoy Ripley (18931949) started out as a newspaper sports cartoonist for the New York Globe. Short of copy one day in December 1918, he created the first "Believe It or Not" column, which featured bizarre sports records. The feature quickly became a hit; signed by the head of King Features Syndicate at the behest of William Randolph Hearst, the column ran in 325 newspapers in 33 countries with an estimated readership of 80 million. Ripley earned half a million dollars a year by the mid-1930s and received thousands of letters per day, more than any other individual save Santa Claus. He also lectured, appeared in short films, and broadcast a weekly radio show starting in 1934. An international celebrity who made a fetish of the people and things of the Orient, Ripley can also be credited with providing the United States with its national anthem: in 1929, he alerted readers to the fact that "The Star-Spangled Banner" had never been officially adopted. Congress responded to more than five million letters of protest inspired by the column and rectified the situation in 1931. Ripley's personal collection of memorabilia is preserved in twenty-six museums worldwide.


Considine, Robert B. Ripley: The Modern Marco Polo. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961.

Jackson, Donald Dale. "Believe It or Not, Rip Was Almost as Odd as His 'Items.'" Smithsonian 25, no. 10 (1995): 9099.

Robbins, Peggy. "Believe It or Not! The Extraordinary World of Robert Ripley." American History Illustrated 17, no. 6 (1982): 3441.

Jennifer Gold

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