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Robert Pershing Wadlow
Robert Wadlow
Height: 8 ft 11.1 in (272cm)
Birth: 22 February 1918
Illinois, United States
Death: 15 July 1940
Illinois, United States
Verified

Robert Pershing Wadlow (22 February 1918 - 15 July 1940) also known as the "Alton Giant" and the "Giant of Illinois", was an American man who was the tallest person in recorded history for whom there is irrefutable evidence. He was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, a small city near St. Louis, Missouri. He was also known as: "The Gentle Giant", "Alton Giant", or "Illinois Giant".

Biography

Robert 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, because of his height. By the time of his graduation from Alton High School in 1936, he was 8 ft 4 in (254 cm). He enrolled in Shurtleff College with the intention of studying law. Wadlow required leg braces when walking and had little feeling in his legs and feet. He never used a wheelchair.

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). During his appearances, he dressed in his everyday clothes and refused the circus's request that he wear a top hat and tails.

In 1938, he began a promotional tour with the International Shoe Company, which provided him shoes free of charge, again only in his everyday street clothes. Wadlow saw himself as working in advertising, not exhibiting as a freak. He possessed great physical strength until the last few days of his life.

Wadlow belonged to the Order of DeMolay, the Masonic-sponsored organization for young men, and was later a Freemason. By November 1939, 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, he was measured by doctors at 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m). His hands also measured by the time 1 ft 1.5 in (32.3cm), and foot 19 inches (48cm).

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.

His coffin was made from Metal, and 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. 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. Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens wrote and released a song titled "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" in reference to Wadlow, on his 2005 concept album Illinois concerning historical figures and events of the state.


Small Gallery

Height Chart
Age Height Weight Note Height to Compare Year
Birth 1 ft 8 in (0.51 m) 8 lb 5 oz (3.8 kg) Normal height and weight Average newborn February 22, 1918
6 months 2 ft 10+1⁄2 in (0.88 m) 30 lb (14 kg) 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+1⁄2 in (1.00 m) tall and weighed 40 lbs. 5-year-old February 22, 1919
18 months 4 ft 3+1⁄4 in (1.30 m) 67 lb (30 kg) 8-year-old August 22, 1919
2 years 4 ft 6+1⁄4 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+1⁄2 in (1.69 m) 105 lb (48 kg) At 5 years of age, attending kindergarten, Wadlow 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)< 169 lb (77 kg) 1926
9 years 6 ft 2+1⁄2 in (1.89 m) 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) 211 lb (96 kg) 1928
11 years 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 241 lb (109 kg) 1929
12 years 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) 287 lb (130 kg) 1930
13 years 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) 270 lb (120 kg) World's tallest Boy Scout, averaging a growth of 4 inches (10 cm) per year since birth and wearing size 19 (U.S.) shoes. 1931
14 years 7 ft 5 in (2.26 m) 331 lb (150 kg) Height of Zhang Ziyu Current Tallest alive Woman teenager. 1932
15 years 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m) 354 lb (161 kg) Height of Fedor Machnow, Tallest Ukrainian 1933
16 years 8 ft 1+1⁄4 in (2.47 m) 374 lb (170 kg) Height of Zeng Jinlian tallest woman ever. 1934
17 years 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m) 382 lb (173 kg) Graduated from high school on January 8, 1936 (not yet 18) Height of Sultan Kosen, tallest currently living man. 1935
18 years 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m) 391 lb (177 kg) Claimed height of Leonid Stadnyk former tallest man. 1936
19 years 8 ft 6+1⁄2 in (2.60 m) 480 lb (220 kg) 1937
20 years 8 ft 7+1⁄4 in (2.62 m) 488 lb (221 kg) 1938
21 years 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m) 491 lb (223 kg) Possible height of John Rogan second tallest man. 1939
22.4 years 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m) 439 lb (199 kg) At death, he was the world's tallest man. June 27, 1940

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