LeRoy Robert Ripley (December 25, 1890 – May 27, 1949), better known by the name Robert Ripley, was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur, and amateur anthropologist,
Ripley is known for creating the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show which feature odd facts from around the world.
Subjects covered in Ripley’s cartoons and text ranged from sports feats to little known facts about unusual and exotic sites; but what ensured the concept’s popularity may have been that Ripley also included items submitted by readers, who supplied photographs of a wide variety of small town American trivia, ranging from unusually shaped vegetables to oddly marked domestic animals, all documented by photographs and then depicted by Ripley’s drawings.
Ripley’s cartoon series was estimated to have 80 million readers worldwide, and it was said that he received more mail than the President of the United States. He became a wealthy man, with homes in New York and Florida, but he always retained close ties to his home town of Santa Rosa, California, and he made a point of bringing attention to The Church of the One Tree, a church built entirely from the wood of a single 300-ft (91.4-m)-tall redwood tree, which stands on the north side of Juilliard Park in downtown Santa Rosa.
Ripley claimed to be able to “prove every statement he made”, because he worked with professional fact researcher Norbert Pearlroth, who assembled Believe it or Not!s array of odd facts and also verified the small-town claims submitted by readers. Pearlroth spent 52 years as the feature’s researcher, finding and verifying unusual facts for Ripley and, after Ripley’s death, for the King Features syndicate editors who took over management of the Believe it or Not!’ panel.