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 biggest questions. Who is the largest living cat? How long is the longest metal coil passed through the nose and out of the mouth? What is the most jelly eaten with chopsticks in one minute?

The book itself holds its own record. It's a best-selling annual publication, having sold over 134 million copies. That's in its nearly sixty-five-year run. It celebrates its 65th anniversary next year. But what is it that incites such a strong following? Is it the grotesque? Or is it the extreme and the unusual?

"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. He is 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. Sir Hugh Beaver was the managing director of the Guinness Brewery. In 1951 he missed a shot at a game bird during a hunting trip. He wondered aloud if it could possibly be the fastest game bird. A few years later, he realized a record of superlatives such as the fastest game bird didn't exist. He enlisted the assistance of two journalists, Norris and Ross McWhirter. They wrote the first edition of the bestseller. It took 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. They went to pubs as promotional material for the Guinness brewery. The copies even had waterproof covers. This was to protect them from the inevitable spills at the pubs. But they soon saw the retail possibilities of the material they had produced. The editors sprung into action. They published 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. Some have been retired for ethical reasons. These include records such as "heaviest pet" or "most hamburgers consumed in one sitting. But 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. Gone with the Wind remains the highest grossing movie at $3.44 billion. That's after being adjusted for inflation. 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 (20)
  • NuYarN-bad
    11/11/2019 - 09:27 a.m.

    I thhink a record that would be interesting is the biggest gum blown

  • DeontaeJ-bad
    11/11/2019 - 09:27 a.m.

    I think the worlds strongest man would be a interersting to learn about.

  • SaMeN-bad
    11/11/2019 - 09:28 a.m.

    Any type of records i think would be interesting to learn about because any type of record would be a good and interesting experience to learn.

  • AhZeeM-bad
    11/11/2019 - 09:28 a.m.

    I think the type of the most things to learn is about the world fastest worker. I want to learn about this is because when I grow up I want to work in a company or in a factory that doesn’t have gas going up to the air because it is not good for our environment. I want to work their because if I kind work fast in factory it will good for me to work in my house little bit faster. Also if I work in company and I get pay enough I can feed my whole families and I can take care of them.

  • SarmeeL-bad
    11/11/2019 - 09:29 a.m.

    I think the record that would be interesting to learn about is the world most smartest person to even find a solution to find if aliens are real or not and a solution to make humans to land on Jupiter.

  • SaKyiD-bad
    11/11/2019 - 09:30 a.m.

    The type of record that would be interesting to learn about is having apple bobbed because i feel like its just shaving the apple into a clean piece and then chop the apple also its more money to earn for a small job.

  • 26jdmoli
    11/14/2019 - 10:28 a.m.

    Snowboarding tricks.Because i am a really good snowboarder and i can do a lot of cool tricks.I think i could be some sort of record about snowboarding.

  • 26bkvees
    11/14/2019 - 10:45 a.m.

    Probably digging the deepest hole in one minute. It is something totally random, and it would be exiting to watch, and it would be really interesting.

  • Arash-E2
    12/03/2019 - 11:48 a.m.

    I think this article is very interesting because it shows how creative people can become every famous.I also think this book was a great idea because people want to make records and I think this book is the way to do it. A new record in the book should be the longest text message.

  • BenP-E2
    12/06/2019 - 11:09 a.m.

    This is about how the Guinness World Records is a worldwide phenomenon. It will be 65 years old in 2020. I thought that it is cool that some records never were broken. I thought this is cool how old the book is, and how it started as a very small business.

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