How the Guinness Book of World Records became an international phenomenon Twin journalists Ross and Norris McWhirter put together the first Guinness World Records book, which at that time was called The Guinness Book of Records. (Guinness World Records/Martin Thomas/Flickr)
How the Guinness Book of World Records became an international phenomenon
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Guinness World Records has answers to some of life's most burning questions: Who is the largest living cat, how long is the longest metal coil passed through the nose and out of the mouth and what is the most jelly eaten with chopsticks in one minute?

The book itself holds a record of its own: best-selling annual publication, having sold over 134 million copies in its nearly sixty-five-year run (it celebrates its 65th anniversary next year.) But what is it about the grotesque, the extreme and the unusual that garners such a strong following?

"These superlatives are just things that I think all of humanity have an innate curiosity about. I think we're all interested in the fastest, the longest, the highest, the shortest," says Peter Harper, senior vice president at Guinness World Records, "and likewise people want to be known for that."

It was a curiosity about the fastest game bird that inspired the creation of Guinness World Records. In 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, missed a shot at a game bird during a hunting trip and wondered aloud if it could possibly be the fastest game bird in existence. A few years later, upon realizing there did not exist a record of superlatives such as the fastest game bird, Beaver enlisted the assistance of two journalists, Norris and Ross McWhirter, to write the first edition of the bestseller. After more than 13 90-hour weeks, the editors finally published the book on August 27, 1955.

At first they only printed 50,000 copies of the argument-settling book to supply to pubs as promotional material for the Guinness brewery - the copies even had waterproof covers to protect them from the inevitable spills at the pubs. But as soon as they grasped the retail possibilities of the material they had produced, the editors sprung into action to publish an edition to release to the public by October that year.

There's no shortage of record-seekers: The company receives around 1,000 applications every week, and though a few of the records, such as "heaviest pet" or "most hamburgers consumed in one sitting," have been retired for ethical reasons, about 75 percent of the applications are for new records.

Records are frequently challenged and broken, such as most apples bobbed in one minute, but some records have remained on the books since the first iteration of the records in 1955. Adjusted for inflation, Gone with the Wind remains the highest grossing movie at $3.44 billion and John D. Rockefeller's wealth is unrivaled at $189.6 billion.

No one may ever be able to crack Rockefeller's record, not even Bill Gates whose net worth rounds out to $79.2 billion, but it's not the rich and famous who draw readers in droves to the Guinness World Records book - it's the average Joe doing the extraordinary.

"It's amazing how many "ordinary people" end up being a Guinness World Records holder," says Harper.

(For the record: The largest living cat is a 922 pound liger named Hercules, the longest metal coil passed through the nose and out of the mouth is 11 feet, 10.91 inches, and the most jelly eaten with chopsticks in one minute is one pound, six ounces.)

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What type of record do you think would be interesting to learn about? Why?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (23)
  • NashaiJ-bad1
    11/11/2019 - 11:08 a.m.

    I will, like to keep up with school records because sometimes o feel like the teacher are not doing a good job keeping up with them in some school and I fell like a person with that kind of patience should do it so we are informed about the records of our school technology,students,teacher,class work ,extravaganza.

  • DynastiiJ-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:09 a.m.

    The Accountability: Record keeping is vital to an education system's information cycle as a whole, because of its fundamental role in the process of efficient information production and collection. School records are an important means of accountability because they provide proof.

  • ZakaW-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:09 a.m.

    I think an interest record to learn about is holding the longest breath under water. I think is an interest record to learn about because if you ever drown or something you could survive holding your breath under water without drowning.

  • SnayT-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:10 a.m.

    The longes kazoos chain because it is wacky.

  • SaMeM-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:10 a.m.

    I wanna learn about the fastest eater record because it’s interesting that they eat fast and so much and never get fat.

  • JaVyonW-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:10 a.m.

    The longest book written in a day would be the most interesting record to me.

  • DaVareyS-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:11 a.m.

    Guinness World Records. In 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, missed a shot at a game bird during a hunting trip and wondered aloud if it could possibly be the fastest game bird in existence. A few years later, upon realizing there did not exis

  • JanaiS-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:11 a.m.

    I think the world record i would be interested in learning about the longest person to not be able to blink or the longest person to hold there pee.

  • MaungH-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:13 a.m.

    The most thing learned or the most puzzled learned. I also want to be the person that known the most languages in the world, to help people.

  • MinaA-bad
    11/11/2019 - 11:13 a.m.

    I think that records of animas would be cool because there’s relay bot much record of animals like birds or bears or any of those kinds of animals. Three like records of medicine and records of other stuff for different things.

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