Dec. 25, 1890 Santa Rosa Sonoma County California, USA
May 27, 1949 New York New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
Cartoonist, Author, Radio Broadcaster. Best remembered for creating the cartoon series, "Ripley's Believe It or Not." His January 1931 cartoon stating that the United States had no official national anthem resulted in such a public outcry that "The Star Spangled Banner" was adopted as the official anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931. Born Christmas Day, 1893, in Santa Rosa, California, he was a self-taught artist as a boy, and a natural athlete who longed to make a career as a pitcher in professional baseball. However, in his very first semi-professional game, he broke his arm, ending his sports career. He soon landed a new job, as a cartoonist covering sports events for the San Francisco Chronicle, but within a year, he headed for New York City, where he continued his sports cartooning for the New York Globe. In 1918, lacking ideas one day, he strung together a group of odd sports facts in a cartoon format. The idea was so popular that he was asked to continue making the groups, and he quickly added other odd facts from every possible category: human, scientific, political, historical, animal, or whatever. The weekly cartoon became an instant success. Quickly he began to travel to other countries to gather odd facts, and during his career, he traveled to 198 countries, making the equivalent distance of 18 trips around the world. Of the many countries he visited, he found China the most fascinating, and adopted many Chinese items for his home use in New York. He was at the peak of his career during the 1930s and 1940s, and his phrase, "Believe it or not!" became a common icon of America. He collected cars, but never learned to drive. A non-swimmer, he owned a number of boats. He was married from 1919 to 1926, to Beatrice Roberts, but the marriage ended in divorce. Many of the items he collected are still being shown today in amusement museums under his trademarked "Ripley's Believe It or Not." Like Peter Pan, his entire life was a kind of extended childhood, and he never grew tired of going places and discovering new things. He had a limitless fascination with the entire world. He was also the first cartoonist to become a millionaire. He died in New York City in 1949 after a heart attack. After his death, a memorial to Ripley was built in Santa Rosa, California: it is a church built entirely from one tree (a California Redwood).