August 27, 1955: The first “Guinness Book of Records” was passed around in British pubs
Have you ever tried to beat one of the records in the Guinness Book of World Records? While many people have found amusement in trying to out-do their way into the historic book, many don’t know where the collection of legendary feats got its start. Believe it or not, the first Guinness Book of Records wasn’t originally dreamt up and prepared by scientists, analysts, or anthropologists. Instead, the now top-selling title in history began with a brewery owner’s simple hunting trip.
It all started with a plover
Hugh Beaver, the owner of Guinness Brewery in Dublin, went to shooting party with a few pals in 1951. After a near-hit on a bird, the group found themselves at a conversational crossroads. They had failed to shoot down a speedy golden plover and began to debate over which game bird was the fastest in all of Europe. Despite perusing through a few reference books, they were unable to turn up a definite answer. After this experience, Beaver began to think up a fun and brilliant way to advertise and amuse customers drinking his beer: a book of basic and bizarre records.
Constructing the first Guinness Book
Enlisting the help of twin sports journalists Norris and Ross McWhirter, Beaver began to compile together what would become the first Guinness Book of Records. The McWhirter brothers were already used to compiling data and statistics for newspapers and other publications, so they were perfect for the job, which took a stunning 13 and a half 90-hour weeks to complete. The duo’s first draft was given away for free in pubs to promote Guinness beer to customers. However, as the book’s popularity rose, Beaver and the brothers soon realized that they had produced a valuable piece of entertainment.
A spike in awe-struck audiences
Instead of continuing to use the collection as free advertising, the trio began to sell the book for a pretty penny. It was a good thing that they did. The Guinness Book of Records rose to best-seller status almost instantly. In 1956, they had enough popularity to secure a number of world-wide book deals, reproducing an American version of the collection and adapting it to dozens of other languages. All the while, the McWhirter brothers continued to travel the world in search of fresh statistics, facts and records to include in the newest editions. Nowadays, the amended book continues to amaze anyone who pries the hefty collection open and includes a number of fascinating feats of people and animals across the globe.