The Story of Guinness: How the Irish Beer Became the Source of World Records

The book that holds all the record-breaking achievements from all disciplines across the world is now in its 63rd edition and believe it or not, continues to be a bestseller. The Guinness Book of World Records is the place to look for anyone who wants to know who has the most tattoos in the world, what the biggest advertisement is, or which celebrity has the most popular TV personality on Twitter? Also, are you curious to know which celebrities have their own world records?

Guinness World Records has been following global achievements and eccentricities since the 1950s. They employ hundreds of people in locations all around the globe to record the most random feats imaginable to humans.

But have you ever wondered how the legendary book of records came about? Are you aware that the famous brand of beer with the dark brown color was the same owner of the world record trademark? This is the story of Guinness and how an Irish beer became the expert on world records.

It All Happened at a Shooting Party

Guinness, the producer of a distinguished stout beer based in Dublin, Ireland became involved in chronicling and the world’s most astounding records. The world record holder and the beer share a name for a reason. Today, however, the two are no longer officially linked.


It all started in 1951, when Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of the Irish brewery, attended a hunting expedition at Castlebridge House on the River Slaney in County Wexford. Beaver shot at a game bird and missed, bringing the whole group of men to a big argument.

From an Argument, an Idea Was Born

Sir Hugh Beaver and the group of hunters started arguing over which was Europe’s fastest game bird: the golden plover or red grouse. And at that point in time, there was no source of information for them to search and find the answer.

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After not finding a reference book in the host’s library, Sir Hugh realized this was the kind of question that would aggravate drinkers talking over a pint of the dark beer in pubs across the country.

And with that thought, he made history.

A Nagging Question

“They failed to find any reference to information relating to the fastest game bird in Europe,” says Peter Harper, a senior vice president at Guinness World Records.

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This lack of information, which could put an end to an argument, was started to really both Beaver. He discovered that there was no official record of the fastest game bird, or anything else for that matter. He decided to take action.

13 and a Half 90-Hour Weeks

Beaver called on the help of Norris and Ross McWhirter, journalists and brothers, to collect records and publish them into a book in the summer of 1955. The brothers agreed to compile a list of all kinds of interesting facts and figures.


The team spent 13 and a half 90-hour weeks on the project. The new publishing company, Guinness Superlatives, was incorporated and opened a pot on the top floor of 107 Ludgate House on Fleet Street, which used to be an old gymnasium.

They may not have realized what their company would end up becoming!

The First World Record Book

After some revisions, the first edition of the record book was 198 pages. It went on sale on August 27, 1955, and topped the Christmas bestseller lists that year. Turns out the book was a big hit and people really were interested. And not just that year, but every year onwards.


The Irish brewery director, with the help of the journalist brothers, published 50,000 copies of the book with water-repellent covers.

Why water-repellant? You’ll see why…

For Every Bar Top in the Country

The whole point of the book, at first, was for it to sit on every bar top in the nation, courtesy of the beer company. That’s why they were made water-repellant – because of the messy pub crawlers.

Photo by Bryn Colton/Getty Images

The first edition was to be a promotional for the Guinness brewery. But soon Beaver realized that he tapped into a certain public curiosity similar to his own.

He knew he was on to something!

Records From the First Edition

The first edition of the book featured record holders such as John R. Cobb, who landed the world land speed record (in one direction only) at 403.135 mph. He accomplished this in 1947 in Manningford Faith.


Another record breaker from the first edition was Jan Graceful, a British Friesian cow who had the highest lifetime milk yield (325,130 lbs. over 17 years). There was also The Smith’s Arms, which was the smallest pub in the world, measuring 10 feet wide and 4 feet high in England.

The People Want What They Want

It wasn’t just that people wanted to know who and what held the world record for all kinds of things, it was also that they wanted to hold world records of their own and be suited with their own particular kind of fame.

Photo by Artyom Geodakyan\TASS via Getty Images

“Since the first edition of the Guinness World Records book — which was known then as the Guinness Book of Records — in 1955, we have been committed to inspiring individuals through reading, watching, listening and participating in record-breaking,” Harper says.

Record Breakers

Between 1972 and 2001, there was a children’s show on BBC called Record Breakers which discussed achievements from the Guinness book. The McWhirter Brothers would answer questions from the audience with the aid of their encyclopedic memories.


That segment had to come to an end when Ross McWhirter was killed by the Provisional IRA in 1975.

As for Guinness, it found itself in a new realm…

An International Authority

As fame grew for the groundbreaking new record holder, Guinness now found itself in the unusual position of being the international authority on world records.


They began providing judges and panels who were to oversee new attempts at even more unlikely feats. If a record was made, that meant that it could be broken by the next brave contender.

But then again, some records have still not been broken…

Records Are Made to Be Broken…Or Not

Some record breakers are most probably never going to be beaten. Take Canadian Kevin Fast, for example. He set an incredible record which may likely never be broken: heaviest aircraft pulled. He pulled an airplane 8.8 meters (28 feet) by only using his body strength. The plane weighed 188.83 tons (416,299 lbs.).


In the beginning, people were suspicious, but they started to see that Kevin was making the plane move. According to Kevin, he could have gone a lot further if he didn’t have a finish line. Kevin works as a minister and actually has more than five weight-pulling world records.

Most Lightning Strikes Survived

Roy Sullivan has another world record which is unlikely to be conquered: most lightning strikes survived. Roy, from Virginia, was hit by lightning 7 times during his lifetime, surviving every single one of them.


One of the seven incidents occurred in 1973 when he recognized a storm cloud following him while he was driving. Just as he thought the cloud was gone, he got out of his truck and as he did, the lightning struck him. It crawled throughout his body and set his hair on fire. Amazingly, while still conscious, he was able to put the fire out with a can of water that he always had handy in his truck.

The next record holder is another one that would be hard to beat!

World Record for Strangest Diet

Michel Lotito holds the world record for the “Strangest diet” and we’re all amazed at how he even did it! Over the course of his life, Lotito has eaten a total of 9 tons of metal, from bicycles to a whole Cessna 150 airplane!

Photo by Colin Davey/Getty Images

Apparently, the reason he eats this stuff is that he experiences something called Pica, an infection which makes him want to eat indigestible things. For example, soil, glass, metal and basically anything that an ordinary human would never even imagine digesting. Lotito passed away on June 25, 2007, at the age of 57, due to natural causes.

Guinness World Records Live!

The company launched Guinness World Records Live!, a “live record-breaking experience” that tours around Europe for years and was in the United States in 2016.


During a GWR Live! session, contestants can practice, try out and potentially set or break world record titles in real time. Guinness World Record coaches are there to lend expert advice and encouragement.

The Book Just Isn’t Big Enough

People need to apply to set a new record or break an old one on the Guinness World Records website. Many new achievements are recorded in its “Hall of Fame” section. There you can find free-falling astronaut Felix Baumgartner and Otto the skateboarding bulldog.

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The Guinness book only has space to house 4,000 records out of the 40,000 the company holds. So the website is the way to go if you want to challenge existing records.

Curious as to which records are the most commonly challenged?

The Most Common Records Confronted

Some of the most common records challenged are the longest DJ marathon, the heaviest item lifted with glue and the most apples bobbed in a minute. And who knows why.


The world’s oldest person is also a record that changes constantly, which only makes sense. Even Guinness itself has broken records, selling more than 100 million copies over 100 countries and 37 languages.

Celebrities With World Records

If any celebrity is going to hold a world record, let it be Ellen DeGeneres. As of 5 September 2016, Ellen (@TheEllenShow) was the most popular TV personality on Twitter, with an unbelievable 61,848,366 followers!

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

On that date, Ellen thus became the 7th most followed person overall. She also holds a record for the most retweeted message – the selfie taken at the 2014 Oscars, which went viral on Twitter. You definitely saw that one.

The next celebrity is a country singer with a rather impressive world record!

Most Decades with a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart

Dolly Parton has made Top 20 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for 6 consecutive decades (1960s to 2010s). Her first Top 20 song was “Something Fishy” in 1967. Ever since she’s had 73 more Top 20 hits.

Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

Parton’s 1974 hit “Jolene” debuted at No.18 on the chart in October of 2016. “Jolene” also stretched her record for the most US country hits by a female artist to 107.

Dolly Parton – A Record-Breaking Country Singer

George Jones (1950s to 2010s) and Dolly Parton are the only country artists with more than 5 decades on the Hot Country Songs chart. There are other singers who have country hits in 5 different decades, including Elvis Presley (1950s to 1980s and 2000s) and Reba McEntire (1970s to 2010s).

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns

Parton also has a bunch of other US country records, including most No.1 hits (25), most hits by a female artist (107), and the longest span of No.1 hits (35 years 26 days between “Joshua” (No.1 in 1971) and “When I Get Where I’m Going” (No.1 in 2006).

Are you a fan of game shows? You might be amused by the next world record!

Longest Career as a Game Show Announcer for the Same Show

Johnny Gilbert holds the GWR for the longest career as a game show announcer for the same show. He’s been the official announcer for Jeopardy for 32 years and 321 days, as of July 2017.


Johnny Gilbert is known for the “This is Jeopardy!” announcement before every episode of the game show. He has been with the show since the first episode on September 10, 1984.

The Easiest Records to Break

We talked about some records that are pretty much unbeatable, ones that are commonly faced, and celebrity records, but are you curious to know which records are considered the easiest to beat? If you wanted to, you could break these records and find your name on the GWR Hall of Fame. That is until someone beats you.


You can be the next person to own the title of “Most T-shirts put on in one minute”. The current record is 31. The rules are: Can use any size, short or long-sleeved, and you may enlist a friend to help you pull them down (though they must be put on one at a time).

Want to see another ridiculous yet easily-attainable world record? See the next one.

Most Sticky Notes on the Face In One Minute

We told you they can be ridiculous! The current record is 58 sticky notes in one minute. And you must be really curious as to the rules!


You have to use sticky notes measuring a minimum of 73mm on each side. They must be placed by the individual himself, and the notes need to stay attached for a minimum of 10 seconds after the minute is over. Also, the notes aren’t allowed to be attached to the eyelids.

One More Easily-Broken Record (and then we’ll move on)

Another record to beat tomorrow is the one for “Most coins stacked into a tower in 30 seconds.” The current record is 51. And the rules are as precise as the others.


The rules: any coinage that carries a maximum thickness of 3mm may be used. But you can only use one hand, with the other held behind the back. At the end of the 30 second period, the coin tower must remain standing for five seconds.

The next world records are some of the most popular on GWR!

Meet Milly, the Smallest Living Dog

Isn’t she just the cutest little thing? Milly is the smallest dog living, by height. She’s a Chihuahua who measured 9.65 cm (3.8 inches) tall on February 21, 2013.


Milly is owned by Vanesa Semler from Dorado, Puerto Rico. Her full pedigree name is Miracle Milly and she was born on December 1, 2011. Vanesa is probably one of those women that takes her dog with her in her purse.

Arby’s: Largest Advertising Poster

As of June 13, 2018, the company with the largest advertising poster is Arby’s. The fast-food franchise’s sign measures 28,922.10 m² (311,314 ft²). The sign is located in Monowi, Nebraska.


The advertisement was made in order to broadcast Arby’s transition to Coca-Cola products, reading “Arby’s Now Has Coke.” Why Monowi? Because it’s considered the smallest town in America according to the US census. There’s one single resident who acts as mayor, librarian, and bartender!

Most Children Delivered at a Single Birth to Survive

American woman Nadya Suleman shook headlines around the world on January 26, 2009, when she gave birth to six boys and two girls in California. The babies were conceived with the aid of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment, born 9 weeks premature.


In the media, Nadya is better known as the Octomom. The Suleman octuplets are only the second full set of octuplets to be born alive in America. One week after their birth, they exceeded the previous world survival rate for a complete set of octuplets set by the Chukwu octuplets in 1998. Nadya has 14 children in total. If you want to read a full story on Octomom, click here

Next, the tallest man in the world – for the time being!

Sultan: The Tallest Living Man

The GWR for the tallest man living is held by Sultan Kösen from Turkey, as of February 8, 2011. Sultan was born on December 10, 1982. He’s 251 cm (8 ft. 2.8 in) tall. Sultan was the first man over 8 feet to be measured by Guinness World Records in over 20 years.


GWR only knows of 10 confirmed or reliable cases in the history of humans reaching 8 feet or above. Sultan took the title from Xi Shun (from China), who measured 2.361 m (7 ft. 8.95 in) 2005.

Sultan also holds another GWR!

Sultan: Largest Hands of a Living Person

Sultan, a part-time farmer, also holds the record for largest hands of a living person. Each of his hands is 28.5 cm (11.22 in) from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger.


He used to also hold the record for largest feet on a living person, with his left foot being 36.5 cm (1 ft. 2 in) and his right foot measuring 35.5 cm (1 ft. 1.98 in). But his record was topped by Jeison Orlando Rodriguez Hernandez (from Venezuela) in 2018.

His Growth is Due to a Rare Condition

Sultan’s incredible height is caused by a condition known as “pituitary gigantism”, when the growth hormone is over-produced. The effects of this over-production include large hands, a thickening of the bones, and painful joints.


Sultan actually didn’t start his unusual growth spurt until he was 10 years old. But he finally stopped growing after a revolutionary gamma-knife surgery on the tumor affecting his pituitary gland, which put an end to the production of the growth hormone.

Sultan’s height came as a shock to his family!

A Giant in a Normal-Sized Family

Sultan is one of five siblings; he has three brothers and one sister. His whole family, including his mum and dad, are all ‘normal’ sized people. He never finished school due to his condition, so he works occasionally as a farmer to support his family.


He said some of the advantages of being tall was helping his mother out with jobs likes changing a broken light bulb and hanging curtains. But the disadvantages were not finding clothes or shoes that fit or being able to sit in a regular size car.

The History of Guinness

If you liked the story of how Guinness Breweries became the Guinness World Records, you might fancy some knowledge on the history of the famous beer company that started it all.

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Guinness beer is the pride of Ireland and was established about 300 years ago. The Guinness story began in a small Irish village called Celbridge, where Arthur Price, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Cashel lived.

It was the death of one of them that marked the beginning of the brand of beer.

A Baptism and a Passing

The Archbishop hired Arthur Guinness to manage basically everything that happened around him. And as time passed, a friendship rose between the two. Price baptized Arthur’s son Arthur Guinness II, in 1768.


Arthur Guinness brewed ale on his spare time in Dr. Price’s basement, which had all the necessary equipment. In 1752, Arthur Price died and this marked the beginning of Guinness brewing company’s story.

A Sum of Money and a Passion

Arthur Price left a legacy of 100 pounds to both Arthur Guinness and his son. And back then, that was a large amount of money. Guinness decided to use that money to start his own legacy.

Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images

The first project of Arthur Guinness was a small factory for brewing ale, which he rented in Leixlip, a town in north-east County Kildare, Ireland. Arthur’s younger brother, Richard, helped him conduct the business.

Moving on to Dublin

Things were going so well that three years later, Arthur moved to Dublin to open a brewery. In 1759, he found an old dilapidated brewery, named St. James’s Gate Brewery. The lease agreement was just £ 45 a year for an endless time – 9000 years!


The 34-year-old rented the factory and made it his life’s mission to turn it into a successful brewery. A couple of years later, Guinness married Olivia Whitmore. The couple had 21 children, but only 10 of them lived to adulthood. Remember, it was 1761!

Leaving Behind a Legacy

At the time, Arthur was making the same ale that he brewed in Price’s basement. Guinness only started producing the dark beer in 1799 – the dark beer with creamy foam which made the company one of the symbols of Ireland.

Source: Guinness Celebrates Arthur’s Day

Four years later, at the age of 78, Arthur Guinness died. He left his children, who became businessmen, a hefty 25,000 pounds. Today, that would equal to about 865,000 pounds.

Guinness also has a story behind their advertising…

The Guinness Advertising Story

Guinness’ first advertising poster showed a pelican holding a pint of beer on his beak. It proved successful and the following posters were even more fruitful. The company highlighted how the essence of the advertising message was actually quite simple.


The job was done by a well-known artist at the time. John Gilroy, who explained the meaning of the art print. The most famous work of Gilroy was a Guinness poster with a man carrying a heavy bench. The company’s slogan at the time was “Guinness – for strength.”

A New Symbol for Strength

That poster became quite a gimmick. As soon as the ads began to appear in different bars in Ireland, many customers who ordered Guinness beer would bring a similar bench so that they could show their strength.


It was clearly a brilliant advertising idea! But Guinness eventually broadened their advertising campaign to magazines and newspapers, which meant they need to find a new and different approach.

A Newer More Educated Audience

The broader audience was more educated, and so the company decided to use classic literature in their new advertisements. What they did was create a real mockery of popular poetry at the time: Lewis Carroll, John Keats, Edward Lear, Geoffrey Chaucer, Henry Longfellow, and many others.


The campaign was immensely successful. Guinness also launched a promotional campaign aimed at young people, where they placed their ads in academic journals.

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