Iconic legends, unsolved mysteries, scandal, crime and celebrity...the buzzwords that have fascinated millions never seem to tire. It is to feed this insatiable curiosity that Liberty—The Stories Never Die! raises its voice.
First appearing as Liberty Magazine, a topical weekly in 1924 and throughout much of the 20th century, this vault of Liberty stories is a pop culture time capsule of content still making headlines across the world.
From entertainment to politics and everything in between, the new Liberty—The Stories Never Die! is your portal to explore, connect, uncover and share the stuff everyone thinks they know about but are merely scratching the surface. The stories the tabloid journalists and paparazzi of today would have died to get their hands on, but only Liberty was there to expose. The stories on this site are representative of the thousands of riveting pieces found in the world renowned Liberty Library.
Liberty—The Stories Never Die! is the vision of Robert Whiteman, the creative force credited with helping to popularize the acclaimed entertainment property Ripley's Believe it or Not.
The Liberty archive includes thousands of images by the greatest American artists: over 1,300 full-color covers, 12,000 illustrations, 50,000 classic advertisements, and 15,000 humorous cartoons.
The literary property consists of 17,000 fiction and non-fiction copyrighted materials by the greatest writers, statesmen, and celebrities of the time: Adventure, mystery, spy, suspense, westerns, and war stories
• Love stories, humorous stories, and human interest stories
• Short-stories and Book-length serials
• Best-seller book condensations
• Biographies and Autobiographies
Special features and columns: For the Love o’ Lil, Bright Sayings of Children, Tongue Twisters, 20 Questions, crossword puzzles, and the very popular Vox Pop—Voice of the People - Column, which allowed readers to express their own opinions on any issue through letters to the magazine. Numerous original fashion designs were created specifically for Liberty magazine by the most influential designers of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
Over 120 major motion pictures came from Liberty stories: Sergeant York, Double Indemnity, My Man Godfrey, and Mr. Ed: The Talking Horse television series also came from a Liberty story.
Robert J. Whiteman, President of Liberty Library Corporation
Robert J. Whiteman, the president of Liberty Library Corporation, has always had a knack of figuring out the “next big thing.”
Whiteman helped create the modern multi-billion dollar business of product licensing and merchandising after he met Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 1946. He soon controlled the worldwide licensing rights to Ripley’s. Over the next forty years, he created products and negotiated agreements for motion pictures, television shows which have been on the air worldwide continuously since 1982, newspaper syndication, books, magazines, toys, games, clothing, corporate tie-ins, premiums and more. Thanks in large part to Whiteman‘s efforts, Ripley‘s has become a global brand, growing from only 5 museums when Whiteman got involved and to more than 80 museums today and with widespread recognition among consumers around the world.
Licensing was quite a career switch for Whiteman, a Juilliard-trained concert violinist who, as a child prodigy, had played at the White House at the age of 10 and also founded the New York String Quartet. Whiteman realized that, despite all of his talent and training, the life of a professional musician was fraught with risk and uncertainty. Seized by a burning desire to control his own destiny and brimming with ideas and a drive to make his ideas come to life, Whiteman built a worldwide product licensing empire, with Ripley’s as his first major property.
In 1969, Whiteman bought the Liberty Library Corporation, the owner of Liberty magazine and all of its archives, including over 17,000 literary properties and 50,000 pieces of art. Authors of Liberty articles included luminaries of the time ranging from George Bernard Shaw to Babe Ruth to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The artwork included contributions from such well-known artists as Leslie Thrasher, a contemporary of Norman Rockwell’s, Walt Disney and Dr. Seuss.
Whiteman’s association with Liberty goes back to 1931 when Whiteman was a six-year-old in Depression-era Savannah, Georgia, one of a million “Liberty boys” selling the magazine door-to-door to earn prizes such as catcher’s mitts and bicycles. Other Liberty boys with whom Whiteman stays in touch include Warren Buffett and, until recently, Walter Cronkite. Whiteman even sent Buffett a certificate officially recognizing his time as a Liberty boy, presumably the beginning of Buffett’s illustrious business career. Cronkite thought so much of his time as a Liberty boy that he made sure to include a mention of it in his television autobiography at the time of his retirement from CBS News. Whiteman is currently the sole owner of Liberty.
Whiteman successfully issued a quarterly reprint of Liberty magazine from 1971 to 1976 in partnership with the publisher of National Lampoon and Weight Watchers magazines. His re-launch of one of the most venerable names in American publishing drew widespread media attention, including from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time and Newsweek.
Drawing on his long experience in licensing Ripley’s and other major consumer brands, he capitalized on the broad recognition of the Liberty magazine brand and the quality of the articles and artwork. Liberty licensed leading publishers numerous hardcover and soft cover books based on articles from the magazine, including Eyewitness: Hitler, Murders That Baffled the Experts, and Houdini’s Spirit World.
In keeping up with the changes in technology, in 1975 he licensed the microfilm rights for the Liberty archive to the New York Times, which sold the film library to public and university libraries.
Liberty was taken to Federal court by Dr. Seuss in 1968 in a copyright dispute over cartoons the well-known artist had done for Liberty in 1932.
Whiteman produced a 1944 check from Liberty’s archives that refuted the testimony of key witness Bennett Cerf, the chairman of Random House. Cerf, one of the giants of American publishing, was testifying on behalf of Dr. Seuss, one of his most important authors. Dr. Seuss lost the suit and Liberty’s copyrights were solidly established in a landmark ruling on copyright law that stands to this day.
Among Whiteman’s other entrepreneurial accomplishments, he developed some of the first board games based on television game shows, Break the Bank with Bert Parks and Masquerade Party, and 3-D games including The Adventures of Robin Hood and Ellery Queen’s Trapped. He also was the creator of the Thing bank, based on The Addams Family. The bank, one of the most popular toys of the 1960s, had a creepy disembodied hand which emerged from the mysterious black box to snatch up any coin placed on the bank by an unsuspecting, or more likely, thoroughly enthralled and entertainingly thrilled, child.
In 1995, Whiteman was appointed Director of Licensing for the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for its extensive collection of books, manuscripts, musical recordings, movies, photographs, drawings and other holdings.
Today, Whiteman’s time is spent on launching the great content of the Liberty Library in all media and for consumer products worldwide.
For further information about Robert Whiteman, read about the Bettye-B Company here.