Ripley’s Believe It or Not! celebrated its 100th anniversary last month. Believe It or Not!, a phrase you likely hear daily, was coined by Robert Ripley, a man who created a century old (and counting!) legacy. 100 years later, “Believe It or Not!” remains a part of our lexicon, but what about the man behind the phrase?
Ripley was famous for his world travels and regaling his readers with tales of far-flung places. Ripley traveled to more than 200 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the unexplained. On December 19, 1918, the cartoon that started it all was published. It was a slow sports news day, and with a lack of ready material, Ripley got the idea to pull together some previously drawn cartoons of unusual sports feats he had drawn but not published. He submitted it to his editors, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ripley became so popular that he was once voted the most popular man in America and received an average of 3,000 letters per day – that’s over a million letters a year!
The Believe It or Not! cartoon was not only a success, but it also changed history…. On November 3, 1929, Ripley published “America Has No National Anthem”—asserting “The Star-Spangled Banner” was nothing more than an unofficial hymn sung to an old English drinking song. It took 16 months for Congress to pass a one-sentence bill for President Herbert Hoover to sign into law America’s anthem—all thanks to Ripley!
Beyond print, Ripley also had an extensive career in broadcast, even earning his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for radio.
Today, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has over 30 locations in 10 countries, has publishing, licensing, and broadcast divisions that oversee projects including the syndicated Believe It or Not! television show, best-selling books, and the popular syndicated cartoon strip that still runs daily in multiple countries around the world.