Robert Ripley was a famous American cartoonist, creator of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, champion handball player and a 1988 NYAC Hall of Fame inductee.  

Robert Ripley was born on December 25th, 1890, in Santa Rosa, CA.  

As a teenager, Ripley began drawing cartoons for a local newspaper to help support his family. His talent quickly became apparent and soon he was drawing cartoons for several San Francisco area newspapers.  

After accepting a position at the New York Globe, Ripley moved to New York City in 1913. In 1918, Ripley moved into the New York Athletic Club. He would call the City House home for 15 years, during which time he became one of the country’s top handball players.  

Ripley published his first “Believe It or Not!” cartoon in December of 1918, which focused on peculiarities in athletics.  

In 1929, Ripley published his first book. It caught the eye of media mogul William Randolph Hearst who, after reading it, telegraphed two words to his editor in New York: “HIRE RIPLEY.” Hearst agreed to pay Ripley more than $100,000 a year (roughly $1.4 million in 2018) and syndicated his cartoons in his newspapers all over the world.  

Despite the ridiculousness of some of his cartoons, Ripley defended the veracity of his publications. He maintained that everything he said was true, and he would prove it to anyone who doubted him. Among the more controversial things he published was a 1929 cartoon that claimed the United States had no national anthem. According to Ripley, “The Star-Spangled Banner” set to the music of “To Anacreon in Heaven” was never officially adopted as the country’s national anthem. The claim, which was true, enraged President Herbert Hoover, who signed a bill making it the national anthem in March of 1931.  

In addition to stirring up patriotic fervor at home, Ripley was better known for his adventures abroad. His travels brought him to the ends of the Earth; in one of his favorite trips, Riley actually went to Hell – a small village in Norway. Ripley visited 201 countries during his lifetime, earning him the title of “the Modern Marco Polo.”  

Robert Ripley died suddenly of a heart attack on May 27th, 1949, at the age of 58.