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Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 – July 15, 1940), also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, was the tallest person in recorded history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.[1]

Robert Wadlow
Robert Wadlow postcard.jpg
Wadlow with his father
Born
Robert Pershing Wadlow

(1918-02-22)February 22, 1918
DiedJuly 15, 1940(1940-07-15) (aged 22)
Cause of deathInfection on left ankle
NationalityAmerican
Other names
  • The Gentle Giant
  • The tallest man who ever lived
  • The Gentleman Giant
  • The Boy Giant
  • The Alton Giant
  • The Illinois Giant
Years active1918–1940
Height8 ft 11.1 in (272 cm)[2]
Weight439 lb (199 kg)[3]

Wadlow reached 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m)[2][4][5] in height and weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death at age 22. His great size and his continued growth in adulthood were due to hyperplasia of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone (HGH). Even by the time of his death there was no indication that his growth had ended.

Contents

Early life

Wadlow was born in Alton, Illinois, on February 22, 1918, to Harold Franklin and Addie May (Johnson) Wadlow, and was the oldest of five children. He was taller than his father by age 8, and in elementary school a special desk was made for him. By the time of his graduation from Alton High School in 1936, he was 8 ft 4 in (254 cm).[1] He enrolled in Shurtleff College with the intention of studying law.

Adulthood and death

Wadlow required leg braces when walking[when?] and had little feeling in his legs and feet. He never used a wheelchair.[6]

Wadlow became a celebrity after his 1936 U.S. tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus, appearing at Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden in the center ring (never in the sideshow).[7] During his appearances, he dressed in his everyday clothes and refused the circus's request that he wear a top hat and tails.[7]

In 1938, he began a promotional tour with the International Shoe Company, which provided him shoes free of charge,[8] again only in his everyday street clothes.[9] Wadlow saw himself as working in advertising, not exhibiting as a freak.[7] He possessed great physical strength until the last year of his life, when his strength and health in general began to deteriorate rapidly.[10]

 
Wadlow's shoe (US size 37 AA) compared to a size 12[2]

Wadlow belonged to the Order of DeMolay, the Masonic-sponsored organization for young men, and was later a Freemason. By November 1939,[11] Wadlow was a Master Mason under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. and A.M.

One year before his death, Wadlow passed John Rogan as the tallest person ever. On June 27, 1940 (18 days before his death), he was measured by doctors at 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m).[1]

On July 4, 1940, during a professional appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, leading to infection. He was treated with a blood transfusion and surgery, but his condition worsened due to an autoimmune disorder; he died in his sleep on July 15.[12][1]

His coffin measured 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) long by 2 ft 8 in (0.81 m) wide by 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m) deep, weighed over 1,000 lb (450 kg), and was carried by twelve pallbearers and eight assistants.[1][13][14] He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Upper Alton, Madison County, Illinois.

A life-size statue of Wadlow was erected opposite the Alton Museum of History and Art in 1986.[1][15]

Height chart

Age Height Weight Notes Size of Date
Birth 1 ft 8 in (0.51 m) 8 lb 5 oz (3.8 kg)[3] Normal height and weight Average February 22, 1918
6 months 2 ft 10 12 in (0.88 m) 30 lb (14 kg)[16] 2 year old August 22, 1918
1 Year 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m) 45 lb (20 kg) When he began to walk at 11 months, he was 3 ft 3 12 in (1.00 m) tall and weighed 40 lbs. 5 year old February 22, 1919
18 Months 4 ft 3 14 in (1.30 m) 67 lb (30 kg)[16] 8 year old August 22, 1919
2 years 4 ft 6 14 in (1.38 m) 75 lb (34 kg) 10 year old 1920
3 years 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m) 89 lb (40 kg) 12 year old 1921
4 years 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) 105 lb (48 kg) 14 year old 1922
5 years 5 ft 6 12 in (1.69 m)[16] 105 lb (48 kg)[16] At 5 years of age, attending kindergarten, Robert was 5' 6 1/2" tall. He wore clothes that would fit a 17-year-old boy. 15 year old 1923
6 years 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) 146 lb (66 kg) 15 year old 1924
7 years 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 159 lb (72 kg) Height of adult male 1925
8 years 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[17] 169 lb (77 kg)[17] 1926
9 years 6 ft 2 12 in (1.89 m)[17] 180 lb (82 kg) Weighing 180 pounds, he was strong enough to carry his father (who was sitting in a living room chair) up the stairs to the second floor. 1927
10 years 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)[18] 211 lb (96 kg)[18] 1928
11 years 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 241 lb (109 kg) 1929
12 years 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)[19] 287 lb (130 kg) 1930
13 years 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m)[20] 270 lb (120 kg)[20] World's tallest Boy Scout, averaging a growth of 4 inches (10 cm) per year since birth and wearing size 19 (U.S.) shoes.[21] 1931
14 years 7 ft 5 in (2.26 m) 331 lb (150 kg) 1932
15 years 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m) 354 lb (161 kg) 1933
16 years 8 ft 1 14 in (2.47 m)[22] 374 lb (170 kg) 1934
17 years 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m)[23] 382 lb (173 kg) Graduated from high school on January 8, 1936 and was 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m).[23] Height of Sultan Kösen, tallest living man. 1935
18 years 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m) 391 lb (177 kg) 1936
19 years 8 ft 6 12 in (2.60 m)[9] 480 lb (220 kg)[9] 1937
20 years 8 ft 7 14 in (2.62 m) 488 lb (221 kg) 1938
21 years 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m)[24] 491 lb (223 kg)[24] 1939
22.4 years 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m)[25] 439 lb (199 kg) At death, he was the world's tallest man according to the Guinness World Records.[2] June 27, 1940

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Robert Pershing Wadlow". Alton Museum of History and Art. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Tallest Man". Guinness World Records. March 19, 2010. Archived from the original on March 19, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010. at Wayback machine
  3. ^ a b Drimmer 1991, p. 50.
  4. ^ "World's Tallest Man". Worlds Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "Robert Wadlow, World's Tallest Man, Alton Illinois". Roadside America. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  6. ^ "On This Day in 1918: The tallest man in the world is born". Guinness World Records. February 22, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Joe Nickell (2005). Secrets of the Sideshows. University Press of Kentucky.ISBN 0813123585, p. 89
  8. ^ "Alton Museum of History and Art - Robert Pershing Wadlow - Alton's Gentle Giant". www.altonweb.com. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Drimmer 1991, p. 60.
  10. ^ "Measuring 8 ft 11 inches, Wadlow was the tallest man in history. At age eight, he was taller than his father". The Vintage News. October 21, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  11. ^ Robert Wadlow "worlds tallest man, worlds tallest mason" Archived September 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Illinois Freemasonry Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 1, Winter 2009 p.5
  12. ^ Drimmer 1991, pp. 68, 70.
  13. ^ "Tallest man ever". Guinness World Records.
  14. ^ Hartzman, Marc (2006). American sideshow : an encyclopedia of history's most wondrous and curiously strange performers. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. p. 432. ISBN 9781440649912. OCLC 460991173.
  15. ^ Brannan, Dan (July 14, 2010). "Wadlow died 70 years ago Thursday". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c d Drimmer 1991, p. 51.
  17. ^ a b c Drimmer 1991, p. 52.
  18. ^ a b "Ten-Year-Olds". The Pittsburgh Press. October 28, 1928. p. 39. OCLC 2266185, 9208497, 751750633. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  19. ^ Drimmer 1991, p. 54.
  20. ^ a b Drimmer 1991, p. 55.
  21. ^ Colombraro, Rosemarie (February 2007). "Standing tall: he world's tallest Boy Scout". Boys' Life. Irving, TX: Boy Scouts of America: 24–25. ISSN 0006-8608. OCLC 1027475257.
  22. ^ Drimmer 1991, p. 56.
  23. ^ a b Drimmer 1991, p. 58.
  24. ^ a b Drimmer 1991, p. 66.
  25. ^ Drimmer 1991, pp. 50, 68.

Further reading

  • Brannan, Dan (2003). Boy giant : the story of Robert Wadlow the world's tallest man. Alton, IL, US: Alton Museum of History and Art. ISBN 9780965022859. OCLC 53210546.
  • Drimmer, Frederick (1991). "The Tallest Man in the World". Born different : amazing stories of very special people. New York: Bantam. pp. 48–71. ISBN 9780553158977. OCLC 1028856157. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  • Fadner, Frederic; Wadlow, Harold F. (1944). The gentleman giant; the biography of Robert Pershing Wadlow,. Boston: B. Humphries, Inc. OCLC 4904888.
  • Hamilton, Sandra (1993). Looking back and up : at Robert Pershing Wadlow, the gentle giant. Alton, IL, US: Alton Museum of History and Art. OCLC 29307342.
  • Phillips, Jennifer (2010). Robert Wadlow : the unique life of the boy who became the world's tallest man. Shoreline, WA: Nose in a Book Pub. OCLC 709592729.

External links

Records
Preceded by
John Rogan
Tallest recognized person ever
1939–present
Incumbent