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Believe It or Not: 10 Things to Know About Robert Ripley

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Believe It or Not: 10 Things to Know About Robert Ripley

Believe it or not, world famous traveler and collector of oddities Robert Ripley has been dead more than 65 years. Ripley first made a name for himself as the creator of the popular Believe It or Not! comic strip, which challenged millions of daily readers in the first half of the 20th century to question their view of what was real. Ripley prided himself on the veracity of his outlandish claims, backed up by professional researchers on his payroll, and loved the reactions his attention-grabbing headlines provoked in his readers. Building on the success of the comic strip, Ripley built an empire that included publishing, radio and television programs, and museums beginning with one at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair (equipped with beds to accommodate those who fainted at the sight of Ripley’s curiosities). Though Ripley died May 27, 1949, his legacy lives on in the "Odditoriums" that bear his name and continue to entice curious visitors in tourist destinations around the world.

Curious about Robert Ripley? We were, so we had our team of researchers dig up 10 things you should know about Ripley. Each one is true, but of course you're free to believe or not.

    1. Robert Ripley never finished high school, but he did receive an honorary degree from Dartmouth College.

    2. Ripley was the New York City handball champion in 1926 – not too surprising, since he literally wrote the book on the sport in 1925.

    3. Believe It or Not! is indirectly responsible for making "The Star-Spangled Banner" America's national anthem. On Nov. 3, 1929, Ripley's cartoon revealed that "America has no national anthem." Indeed, the U.S. Congress had never formally adopted the song as the national anthem. Public outcry followed, and President Herbert Hoover signed legislation making it the national anthem March 3, 1931.

    4. At the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, Ripley opened his first "Odditorium" – a museum devoted to strange things and people he found around the world. It marked the first in a chain of museums that continues to astound visitors at locations around the world to this day.

    5. Readers of The New York Times voted Ripley the most popular man in America in 1936. President Franklin D. Roosevelt came in second.

    6. At the height of the Great Depression, Ripley earned upward of half a million dollars per year. His massive payday was a result of a lucrative syndication deal, book sales, a radio show, film shorts, museum ticket sales and speaking engagements.

    7. Ripley was known as the "Modern Marco Polo." The nickname was created by William Randolph Hearst's publicists.

    8. Ripley's first commercial cartoon sale was to Life magazine in 1908. The drawing featured a young woman pushing laundry through a wringer with the caption "The Village Bell Was Slowly Ringing." He was paid $8 for the cartoon and the pun.

    9. At its peak popularity, Ripley's Believe It or Not was read daily by about 80 million readers.

   10. Snoopy can trace his cartoon lineage to Ripley's Believe It or Not. Charles M. Schulz sent in a drawing of his dog, Spike, who claimed was "a hunting dog who eats pins, tacks and razor blades." Ripley ran the artwork and story. It was Schulz's first professional publication. That dog later provided the inspiration for Snoopy.