Syndicated feature panel
Ripley first called his cartoon feature, originally involving sports feats, Champs and Chumps, and it premiered on December 19, 1918, in the
New York Globe. Ripley began adding items unrelated to sports, and in October 1919, he changed the title to Believe It or Not. When the Globe folded in 1923, Ripley moved to the New York Evening Post. That same year, Ripley hired
Norbert Pearlroth as his researcher, and Pearlroth spent the next 52 years of his life in the New York Public Library, working ten hours a day and six days a week in order to find unusual facts for Ripley.
Other writers and researchers included Lester Byck. In 1930, Ripley moved to the
New York American and was picked up by the
King Features Syndicate, being quickly syndicated on an international basis.
Those working on the syndicated newspaper panel after Ripley included Joe Campbell (1946–1956), Art Sloggatt (1917–1975), Clem Gretter (1941–1949), Carl Dorese,
Bob Clarke (1943–1944), Stan Randall,
Paul Frehm (1938–1978; he became the full-time artist in 1949), and his brother Walter Frehm (1948–1989); Walter worked part-time with his brother Paul and became a full-time Ripley artist from 1978 to 1989. Paul Frehm won the
National Cartoonists Society's Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award for 1976 for his work on the series. Clarke later created parodies of Believe It or Not! for
Mad, as did
Wally Wood and
Ernie Kovacs, who also did a recurring satire called "Strangely Believe It!" on his TV programs. The current artist is John Graziano and current researcher is Sabrina Sieck.
At the peak of its popularity, the syndicated feature was read daily by about 80 million readers, and during the first three weeks of May 1932 alone, Ripley received over two million pieces of fan mail. Dozens of paperback editions reprinting the newspaper panels have been published over the decades. Other strips and books borrowed the Ripley design and format, such as Ralph Graczak's
Our Own Oddities, John Hix's
Strange as it Seems, and Gordon Johnston's
It Happened in Canada. Recent Ripley's Believe It or Not! books containing new material have supplemented illustrations with photographs.
Charles M. Schulz's first publication of artwork was published by Ripley. It was a cartoon claiming his dog was "a hunting dog who eats pins, tacks, screws, nails and razor blades." Schulz's dog Spike later became the model for Peanuts'