cartoonist, tells how he makes $1,000,000 a year out of your
curiosity, and how he once socked Jack Dempsey on the jaw and
got away with it—Believe it or Not!
by ROBERT L.
RIPLEY as told to Alfred Albelli
HAVING been called
a liar more times than any other person or group of persons in
the world in any epoch, I want to state a discovery of mine
which created about as much excitement, in my life anyway, as
the feat in question itself.
Believe it or not, Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh was the 67th
man to make a non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean. When I
published one of my “Believe it or not” drawings some time
ago, depicting the Spirit of St. Louis in flight, asserting
that its pilot was the 67th to attempt that adventure, I was
besieged with an avalanche of protests. They crowded in by
mail, telegram, telephone and “tell-another”.
My “Believe it or
not” cartoons of curiosities appear in about 250 newspapers
throughout the country and are digested by over 20,000,000
readers, so you can well imagine what a squawking a multitude
like that could let up if I made the slightest error. There
are still a lot of people who don’t believe that 2 and 2 can
Well, when I made
that crack about Lindbergh, it was a hullabaloo to pay. I
pride myself on the fact that I have always been able to prove
Nearly all of the
complaining customers believed that Lindy was the first to
make a non-stop flight across the Atlantic. And the few who
did remember that Alcock and -Brown had flown over (and I was
amazed how few were in this category), couldn’t for ;the life
of them imagine who the other 64 .might be.
And since I am
citing the Lindbergh example, I am showing you a sample of how
I am always prepared to solve, explain or prove any of my
“Believe it or not” phenomena. What happened in that case was
that you forgot all about the two dirigibles!
You recall that
Sir John Alcock and Sir A. Whitton Brown made the first
non-stop flight over the Atlantic in 1919, from Newfoundland
to Ireland. Later, the same year, the English dirigible, R-34,
with thirty-one men aboard, crossed from Scotland to America,
In 1924, the
German ZR-3, which is now the Los Angeles, flew from
Friederichshafen, Germany, to Lakehurst, New Jersey, with a
crew of 33 men.
Lindbergh was the
Believe it or not,
the “L” which divides my name is for Leroy. I was born in
Santa Rosa, California, less than forty years ago. If I might
lend a little of the weird touch of my cartoons to my own
life, I might confess that I was born on Christmas Day, 1893.
My mother, Lily Belle Yocka Ripley, was born in a covered
wagon when my grandparents were en route to the West Coast. My
father swam the Ohio River at the age of 14. when he ran away
I never studied
art. Never had a drawing education. They tell me that at a
very early age I developed a talent for drawing comic
pictures. The first cartoon I sold was entitled, “The Village
Belle Was Slowly Ringing.”
It showed a homely
country maiden wringing out the wash.
Now, I’m not a
mechanic. I’ve never dabbled in the spheres of science as a
scholar might do. Neither have I ever been in an engineering
school. I wouldn’t recognize one if I fell over it.
And yet, believe
it or not, I’ve got more facts concerning those callings in my
sconce-piece than any other man alive. It is true that I would
be confused before a table of logarithms or a lathe, but what
man can snap his finger and pipe the fact that in 1927, James
Lanvier, of Edinburgh, sneezed 690 times in succession? That’s
a record not to be sneezed at.
My mechanical and
scientific knowledge really consists of freaks. Hardly a week
passes that I do not get close to 3,000 letters. These are
full of curios. Each one tells me of some oddity which seems
incredible, but is true.
illustrating strange and bizarre facts were first cast into
print one winter evening about ten years ago when I was the
sports cartoonist for the old New York Globe. Formerly I had
been on the San Francisco Chronicle, where I slaved with my
inks and brushes for $22.50 and liked it.
The big boss
dropped in and said he wanted something a little out of the
ordinary. He was getting fed up on the general run of sports
comics. I took plenty of time out to ransack my bean for an
All of a sudden I
remembered the feat of J. Darby, a Britisher, who had jumped
backward almost thirteen feet, with weights in his hands.
Nobody would have believed that at the time unless there had
been an army of witnesses and a load of press stories telling
the world about it.
Then I began to
recall other unusual athletic achievements. They came rushing
back through the gates of my memory in a steady cavalcade. I
thought of R. P. Williams, who did a running high-kick of ten
feet, three inches. I remembered the chap who walked across
the continent backwards.
Then there was the
man who hopped a hundred yards in record-breaking time.
Pauliquen, the Parisian, who astounded the world by remaining
under water six minutes and twenty-nine seconds.
In no time I had
enough for an entire page of sport freaks. For want of a
definite title, I called the collection, “Believe it or not”.
Instantaneously letters began to pour in by the bushel. That’s
always a sign you’re running, as we say. In time the “Believe
it or not” craze spread like wildfire. To date, besides my
newspaper audience, I’ve been on the radio, in the talkies and
even in a television broadcast.
Back in those
distant days, it would have made a good cartoon to picture a
sprinter doing 100 yards in ten flat. But I’m now hoping to
see the day when I can record that some errand boy has done
the hundred in seven seconds. That’ll make a good “Believe it
Here are some of
the most recent curiosities which I have reproduced in my
cartoons: the Hindu fakir who held his hand aloft for fourteen
years until birds built a nest in his palm. A Mongol Tzern
rode 1,800 miles in 9 days. The dog that actually smoked. The
man who yawned and broke his jaw. The Norwegian who drank 90
pints of beer at one sitting. The man who sat on eggs and
Believe it or not:
Daniel Webster received 8,000 votes for the presidency of the
United States—after he was dead. An ostrich can run faster
than a horse. A colored steward on the U. S. S. Whitney killed
a chicken, picked, cleaned, cooked and ate it in four minutes.
A boxer’s baby was born with a black eye. The Vivaros of
Ecuador can blow darts from a blow gun 160 feet with deadly
effect. And if you want to know the world’s longest cussword
Zaro Agha, the
gent whom I say believes that it’s never too late to yearn,
was located by me when he Reached his 153rd birthday. That was
his wedding-day back in 1927. Last summer he came to Broadway
and you may have seen the Turkish trophy, who left his bride
behind in Constantinople, having a little innocent sport with
some chorus girls.
Back from behind
the Chinese Wall I have received a gracious letter recently
from a Chinaman who protests that Zaro is only a kid alongside
him. The venerable celestial says he has, believe it or not,
documents to prove that he has just celebrated his 200th
birthday. I’m going to get those two youngsters together some
day and play a good old-fashioned game of marbles with them.
Zaro was quite a nimble and vigorous fellow.
You should have
seen the way he tossed me around on a wrestling mat.
They tell me that
I am the most imitated artist in the world since I have
created what is known as the “black and white” style of
drawing. Since we’re in the believe-it-or-not mood, my
drawings bring me a gross of $1,000,000 yearly. I have a score
of secretaries and a research bureau to keep grinding out the
ideas for my cartoons.
I do all my work
in my home in the New York Athletic Club, which indicates that
I must be some kind of an athlete. I once busted my arm trying
to make Mr. John J. McGraw’s pitching battery. Another time I
socked Jack Dempsey in the jaw, believe it or not, it was in
fun. I’m nuts about handball. In 1926 I was so goofy over it I
won the New York handball championship.