A Quick Glimpse to Ripley's History
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum is a unique attraction in Branson where you can find odd displays, artifacts, and tons of unusual collections. This incredible museum features a great display of strange and bizarre items that will mystify visitors of all ages. There are countless of unusual collections displayed in the museum that visitors will find it unbelievable. This amazing attraction in Branson features incredible collection of 30,000 artifacts, 100,000 cartoon panels, and 20,000 photographs. If you want to know how Robert Ripley ended up in collecting odd items, take a quick glimpse of his story.
Before Robert Ripley became a museum namesake, television and radio host, lecturer, and author, he was a simple newspaper illustrator with a desire for explaining many odd things. On his zest of discovering incredible things, he accumulated knowledge of thousands of oddities, knowing people from around the world – and who could forget that dried whale penis? In an excerpt from a book about him, “A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, author Neal Thompson retraces the amazing and brilliant career of Mr. Ripley whose name lives on in American culture.
After Charles Lindbergh made his treacherous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, flying his single-engine Spirit of St. Louis nonstop from New York to Paris, he became an instant hero for accomplishing a feat long thought to be impossible. That incredible voyage was the most daring and astounding achievement on that day. During that time, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not was nearing its 10th anniversary.
Although Ripley and his cartoon were not popular yet, he continued to entertain readers with hundreds of illustrated bits of arcane – the armless man who played the piano, the chicken that lived 17 days with its head cut off – and the public had responded with continuing loyalty, but with anger and frustration at times. Despite his avowal that everything in his creation was absolutely true, many readers didn’t believe him, and they wrote letters, sometimes thousands each day.
When many of the Americans sought affordable means of entertainment during Depression era, Ripley produced cartoons appearing in more than 300 newspapers around the world, in many languages, and were read by millions. With a $100,000-plus salary from newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in 1929, it was followed by endorsement deals, speaking engagements, and earnings from his best-selling books, movies, radio shows, and museums. Ripley was earning well over half a million dollars a year during the height of the Depression. When newspaper poll founded in 1936, he became more popular than James Cagney, President Roosevelt, Jack Dempsey, and even Lindbergh.
Although Ripley was a public figure for 40 years, no one knew the real story about him. He had been divorced for 25 years and left behind no children when he died in 1949. He had many girlfriends, many of them live with him together at once, but they all disappeared after his death, some went back to countries where they’d come from. He died before he could tell his own story.
Robert Ripley was born in Santa Rosa, California in 1890. His father was a carpenter and died when he was 15. A year later, an earthquake flattened his hometown. During school break, he worked part-time jobs, delivering newspapers and polishing headstones at a classmate’s father’s marble-works shop. What he really wanted to do was draw pictures. With his own endeavour, he became a talented artist in high school and joined staff of the newspaper and the yearbook. In 1908, he sold a cartoon to Life magazine, featuring a woman pushing laundry. He put a caption that read, “The Village Bell was Slowly Ringing.” He was paid $8.
In 1909, Ripley was hired by New York Globe and Commercial Advertiser (but editors suggested that he ditch “LeRoy” and use his middle name, Robert). He had a perfect timing, the paper had just partnered with the Associated Newspapers syndicate, which meant his sports cartoons would be published in papers across the country. Based on his popular sports sketches, the circulation rose steadily, and he was awarded with plum assignments, including trips to Europe and visits to military bases during World War I.
Ripley married teenaged dancer Ziegfeld Follies that ended in divorce. He then moved into a small apartment at the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South where he excelled at handball and won numerous tournaments. He’d love to travel also. The Globe sent him to the Olympic Games in Belgium in 1920, and two years later on an around-the-world trip depicted in a series of essays and sketches called “Ripley’s Ramble ’Round the World.”
When Ripley became a part of the Evening Post in 1926, he decided to remake Believe It Or Not. He promised his readership that his Believe It or Not “are all true,” and if any readers questioned the facts, he’d “prove the truth” to any doubters. He then wrote, “Truth, you know, is really stranger than fiction.” He further wrote, “I have travelled the world over searching for strange and unbelievable things ... I have seen white negroes, purple white men, and I know a man who was hanged but still lives ... Believe me when I tell you about the man who died of old age before he was six years old; there’s a river in Africa that runs backward; oysters that grow on trees; flowers that eat mice; fish that walk and snakes that fly.”
In just two years at the Post, Ripley became a celebrity. Believe It or Not was syndicated in a hundred papers in the United States and Canada. As a creator of Believe It Or Not, Robert Ripley was receiving at least a hundred letters a day, sometimes as many as 1,000 a week.
Long before Ripley’s Believe It or Not first opened, there was the exhibition called the Ripley’s Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair that started it all. This exhibit of curiosities and live performances, which attracted more than two million people during the fair, included sword-swallowers, and contortionists, along with eye-catching strange items from around the world, from teeth-baring masks to intricate carvings. In a time when Americans didn’t have the opportunity to travel as far and wide as Ripley, this collection served as a fascinating introduction to American cultures beyond our borders.
Ripley’s museums have popped up around the globe — from Australia to Korea, Thailand to England, Hong Kong to Orlando, there are now 30 locations of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. The museum at the Times Square is actually one of the newer openings. It opened in 2007 and, at 18,000 square feet, is the second-biggest in the company’s history, after the London branch. But Ripley’s isn’t just about old finds; the museum also regularly unveils modern exhibits. Check out the giant, colorful portrait of Lady Gaga made entirely from crayons, a World Trade Center Memorial created out of 470,000 matchsticks, and a life-size Captain America constructed from used car parts.
So, if you want to know how Ripley ended up in collecting unbelievable things, odd items, and many bizarre displays, take a quick glimpse of Ripley’s history.