There might be times in your life when you feel like being tall is a boon to your reputation, and other times where you might be wishing you could shrink down into the ground and be a ‘normal’ size, for once. For Robert Wadlow, however, the fame of his height was bound to be inevitable.
Read the article: Robert Wadlow – The Tallest Man Ever
If you’ve never heard of this extremely tall man, Robert Wadlow was born in 1918 in Alton, Illinois, USA, to two average-sized parents – Harold Wadlow and Addie Johnson – at a very normal 8 pounds, 6 ounces and average height. As Robert aged, however, it quickly became apparent that there was something unusual about the little Wadlow boy; he just wouldn’t stop growing.
In fact, by the time Robert was eight years old, he was already taller than his father, who stood at a respectable 5 feet and 11 inches. Even as the oldest of five children, he still towered over his siblings as time wore on. An elementary school child who tops six feet before fifth grade is bound to grab the attention of the locals, and Robert quickly developed a reputation as the Alton Giant.
Also known as The Giant of Illinois, Robert’s size made it hard for him to pursue normal activities. In school, he had to have a special desk made specifically for him in order to accommodate his powerful size, but he graduated from Alton High School in 1936 as a svelte 8 feet 4 inches tall … and was still growing.
After graduation, Robert enrolled in law school, but it seemed life had other plans in store. In 1936, Robert went on a tour of the United States with the Ringling Brothers Circus, which is where he first started to gain national attention and international fame as the tall man. Two years later, Robert struck out on a tour sponsored by the International Shoe Company (which later became INTERCO), and as talk of his incredible height spread across the land, so did his increasing popularity as everyone clamored to see the Giant of Illinois.
Robert decided to embark on the promotional tour with INTERCO to showcase not only his amazing height, but also the remarkable size of his shoes, which measured 18.5”, roughly a size 29 or 30 shoe – outstanding by any measure. INTERCO provided Robert’s shoes for free in exchange for his presence on the tour – a very decent proposition, indeed. In fact, several of his shoes are still on display in select locations throughout the United States, including the Robert Wadlow Museum in Alton, Illinois; the Alton Museum of History and Art; and Snyder’s Shoe Store in Manistee, Michigan.
While Robert was slowly climbing in height, so was John Rogan, who held the world’s record for tallest man at the time. Born in 1865 in Tennessee, Rogan stood tall at 8 feet 10 inches, which was giant proportions for most people in the area. A year before his death in 1940, Robert Wadlow measured taller than the tallest man, and the two are still recorded as the tallest men to ever live on this earth.
As he aged, Robert had a hard time walking due to limited feeling in his legs and feet, and was forced to use leg braces when moving about. Due to these braces, Robert developed an abrasion on one of his ankles that developed into an infection. He received a blood transfusion and emergency surgery in the hopes of correcting the issue, but because he also suffered from an autoimmune disorder known as hyperplasia, died in his sleep less than two weeks later.
While he was alive, Robert was also an active member of the Freemasons, and was raised to the degree of Master Mason under the jurisdiction of the largest Freemason ring ever invented in Illinois. He was an accomplished man by many means, and his legacy as the world’s tallest man has lived on for 75 years.
No one in the modern world has managed to surpass his height, although it seems many have been destined to try. Currently, the world’s tallest living man is Sultan Kosen of Turkey, who measured in at 8 feet 3 inches tall when his height was last recorded in 2011. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Kosen is the first man to measure at over 8 feet in over 20 years.
While Kosen is still very tall and managed to take the world record from the previous title holder, Xi Shun from China, in 2009, he still falls short of Robert Wadlow’s record-breaking height by several inches – but he might not be done growing just yet.