Meet The World’s Tallest Man

Standing next to someone or something that towers over me isn’t exactly out of the ordinary in my world.  Standing straight, with the right pair of shoes – five foot, seven inches is the highest I’ve ever experienced the world from the ground without standing on a stool or ladder.

So maybe it’s not fair to show a photo of the world’s tallest man next to one of the world’s shortest men.

Robert Wadlow was a resident of Alton, Illinois and earned the distinct title of tallest man to ever walk the Earth.   His story has been well known for decades in the region surrounding Alton, Illinois – the town Wadlow called home until he died in 1940.  School kids nearby routinely make field trip stops to the statue and the local Alton Museum of History & Art that features some of Wadlow’s personal belongings.

Mr. Wadlow was born in 1918 and quickly grew at a rapid pace.  He was two feet tall by the time he was six months old.  As he entered Kindergarten he was over five feet tall.   By the time he was 13 he had been crowned world’s tallest boy scout ever – at seven feet, four inches and over 300 lbs.   By the time of his death at age 22, he had grown to almost nine feet tall. (8 feet, 11.1 inches to be exact.)

The cause of his rapid growth was due to hyperplasia of the pituitary gland which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone.

While he was certainly a celebrity for his height – he lived a somewhat painful life.  Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say he had little feeling at all – he would often complain of not being able to feel his feet.  He eventually needed braces for his legs although he never used a wheel chair according to local historians.

During his life, he toured with Ringling Brothers Circus (1936) and traveled the country as a promotional spokesperson for International Shoe Company. (1938)   Folks would line up to see first hand  “the world’s tallest man”.

Robert Wadlow died in 1940 after a faulty leg brace caused a blister on his foot that became infected.  A later blood transfusion and emergency surgery failed to save him.  At the time of his death, doctors claim Wadlow was still growing.    Over 40,000 people attended his funeral in Alton and witnessed a 1,000 pound casket carried by 18 men.

You can visit the life size statue at 2809 College Avenue in Alton, Illinois.  A replica of Wadlow’s custom chair sits next to the statue as well.


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