The Real Reason The First Guinness Book Of World Records Was Published

Way back in the days before smartphones gave us access to the internet in our pockets, people used to have no way of instantly settling an argument over who was right or wrong about some obscure fact. You were free to make outlandish claims about something being the biggest, longest, or fastest thing in existence, and friends would have to wait until they found an encyclopedia or tracked down an expert before they could decisively refute or confirm it. 

People have been having these kinds of good-natured arguments — typically over a drink or two in a pub — probably since the beginning of human history, but definitely since 1954, which is when Sir Hugh Beaver, the Managing Director of Guinness Brewery, came up with a way to definitively settle these type of arguments once and for all. According to Mental Floss, Beaver, feeling particularly fragile after an unsuccessful hunting trip one night, put forth the claim over drinks with his friends that the bird he had been hunting, the golden plover, was the fastest game bird in the world. It turns out Beaver was right — the golden plover is the fastest game bird — but the group could find no reference book that could confirm or deny his claim.

The Guiness Book of World Records was created to help settle bar bets

Beaver was inspired to create a single, official book that would hold the answer to these types of pressing questions. Enlisting the help of brothers and fact-checking researchers Norris and Ross McWhirter, he set out to compile a reference book full of the kinds of facts and figures that would settle these bets and bar arguments once and for all, per the Guinness World Records. The fact that it could also serve as an entertaining and eye-catching promotion for his company didn't hurt, either.

The first edition of the Guinness Book of World Records was released in 1955, and people have been using it to settle bar bets ever since. According to Time, the book was such a hit that it sold around 50,000 copies and was reprinted three times in its first year.

These days, the Guinness committee receives submissions from about 65,000 people claiming to have broken some new record (as well as Krispy Kreme). And although now we have the internet to answer many of these questions for us at the touch of a finger, it is still good to know someone out there is in charge of keeping track of the official record-holders for everything from the world's smallest dog to the world's longest sausage.