At 8’11.1″, Robert Wadlow was the tallest man who ever lived, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. At birth he weighed a normal eight pounds, but due to a pituitary gland disorder, he grew quickly. By the time he was eight years old, he was over six feet tall.
Known around his hometown of Alton, Illinois, as the “gentle giant” because of his quiet demeanor, he enjoyed hobbies like stamp collecting and photography. in 1936 he toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus and then traveled as a goodwill ambassador for the International Shoe Company, who provided him with his size 37 shoes. He had trouble with his feet, having little sensation in them, and didn’t notice when blisters formed during a road trip for the shoe company. The blisters became infected, and due to an autoimmune issue from which Wadlow also suffered, the infection was fatal. He passed away in 1940 at the young age of 22. At the time, he was 8’11.1” and still growing. No one knows what height he would have reached had he lived longer.
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Alton Remember Robert Wadlow
Alton remembers Robert Wadlow with a life size statue on the campus of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine. A replica of a chair built for him by the Galax Furniture Company, a chair built when the company president noticed how uncomfortable it was for Wadlow to sit in the normal size chair, sits on the site as well. The statue and chair make great photo ops to demonstrate exactly how tall Wadlow was.
An exhibit on Robert Wadlow at the Alton Museum of History and Art, also on the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine campus, includes a life-size casting of his hand. Next to it is his Masonic ring. To give you an idea of how large the ring is, that’s a half dollar coin inside it.
See photographs, a life-size cutout and other Robert Wadlow items at the museum, located at 2809 College Avenue in Alton IL, Illinois. Check the museum web site for hours. Visit the statue across the street at 2810 College Avenue at any time.
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