- Category : Art-Cartoonist
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 4/1 - Opportunistic / Investigator
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : JX Moods
American illustrator, cartoonist and adventurer. His name became synonymous with all things exotic when his daily "Believe It or Not!" column appeared in newspapers with readership of over 80 million people in 17 languages. Self-educated, he received honorary titles and degrees and became the first cartoonist to become a millionaire.
Oldest of three children, his father Isaac was a carpenter and his mother Lillie a housewife. He felt he was a poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks. In high school he drew cartoons for the school paper and sold his first sketch of a woman to "Life" magazine for $8 in 1908. Moving to San Francisco in 1909, he began illustrating sports stories for the Chronicle.
Seeking fame, he moved to New York City in 1912 and the following year joined the New York Globe as a sports cartoonist. A lover of baseball, he pitched for a semi-pro team and at age 20 earned a tryout with the New York Giants. He broke his arm while pitching in his first professional game, ending his career. In December 1918 he began drawing a sports-related "Believe It or Not!" column. His income skyrocketed to $100,000 a year when it was syndicated in King Features, part of the Hearst newspaper empire. He drew his cartoon each day between 7 and 11 AM, always drawing it upside-down.
Ripley was curious about everything and his love of travel took him the equivalent of 18 times around the world. His serious travel began in 1920 when he made his first trek across Europe followed two years later with visits to Central and South America. In 1925 he traveled extensively in the Far East which began his love affair with all things Chinese. A true collector, he owned houses that included a mansion in Mamaroneck, NY. Though he was not a swimmer, he owned an odd assortment of boats including a Chinese junk. Ripley owned several automobiles, although he never learned to drive. He inaugurated a network radio show from mid-ocean in 1931 and was the first to simultaneously broadcast to every nation in the world assisted by a corps of translators. During the World's Fair in 1933 Ripley opened his first Odditorium, a combination sideshow, freak show and natural history museum. There are now six Odditoriums worldwide.
A flamboyant publicity hound, he liked to carry canes and wear two-toned shoes. In later life he surrounded himself with celebrities hosting lavish parties. In the 1940's he had both radio and TV shows and would talk endlessly about something he was interested in, but not about himself. World War II forced him to cut back on travel and he gained weight and began drinking heavily.
Extremely shy with a slight stammer, Ripley was known as a lady's man. He married Beatrice Carlisle, a Ziegfeld Follies girl, in 1918, but soon began seeing other women. The couple was childless and they divorced in 1923. He never remarried.
Near collapse, on 5/23/1949, Ripley did his last episode of his TV show, checked into a Manhattan hospital and died 5/27/1949 of a heart attack at 5:00 PM local time (according to the NY Times obituary). He suffered from hypertension.
After his death, Castle Warden, a historic landmark in St. Augustine, FL, became the home of his most unique collection of art, oddities and curiosities.