This Was The First Guinness World Record

Back before Google and smartphones, people couldn't settle an argument in a matter of seconds. They had to actually know stuff. Or find a book, made out of paper, with information in it. Weird. And one place where arguments over silly, mostly inconsequential tidbits get started is the bar — or as the brewers of Guinness call it, the pub.

What started as an almanac of factoids meant to settle whatever disputes may arise over a few pints of ale has come to be a global sensation. As notes, the Guinness World Records book was first published on August 27, 1955, and was originally offered free of charge in pubs as promotional material for Guinness beer. The book became such a popular item in its own right, however, that Guinness saw an opportunity and soon began charging for it. It quickly shot to the top of the bestsellers lists. According to the Guinness World Records official timeline, it sold out four reprints in its first year of publication, and over a million copies flew off the shelves in less than a decade. By 2019, the brand had sold over 143 million books. And it all started as an trivial argument at a friendly bird hunt, or shooting party, as they say across the pond.

The first Guinness World Record was about a bird

The story of how the Guinness World Records book came to be is recounted on its official website. In 1954, the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, Sir Hugh Beaver, remembered an argument he'd had at a shooting party a few years earlier: What was Europe's fastest game bird? They had tried to look it up, but couldn't find a reference book that would give them the answer. The conundrum gave Beaver the idea for a book that could be used to settle such arguments in pubs and parties.

He hired a pair of twins who had ran a research company that acquired facts, figures, and statistics to sell to newspapers and advertisers. They were able to help him settle that first-ever Guinness World Record and create a company that became even more successful than the beer he brewed.

The fastest game bird in Europe, by the way, is the golden plover, pictured above. Sorry if you just lost a bet!