ROBERT WADLOW – The Tallest Man

The tallest man in recorded history, Robert Wadlow, spent less than a year in the circus – and none of it officially in the sideshow. Wadlow, and those who today watch over his legacy, are adamantly against associating Robert with the sideshow or the word freak.

While Wadlow was a giant, he was far from being a freak. In fact aside from his remarkable height he was beyond normal. He was a kind, intelligent man who is still remembered as a gentleman some 60 years after his passing.

He was the first born of a normal sized couple and was born on Feb. 22, 1918. By all accounts, Robert was a normal sized baby at eight pounds and six ounces but he quickly began to grow – within twelve months he ballooned to just over forty-four pounds. At the age of five he was five and a half feet tall and at the age of 9 he stood six feet, two inches.

His family was constantly hounded by showmen begging for a chance to display the human marvel. However the Wadlow family insisted that Robert experience as average an upbringing as possible – given the circumstances. Wadlow even joined the Boy Scouts when he was thirteen and became the largest Boy Scout in history – he was seven feet, one inch and weighed 340 pounds.

In high school Robert was popular and active in many extracurricular activities, even serving as the advertising manager for the yearbook. He was completely accepted by his peers. However, when he attended college he lost that acceptance and struggled with the stares. It bothered him so much that he dropped out and returned to his parents quite penniless.

That is when his brief stint with Ringling Bros. began. His 1937 contract was brief and had strict conditions and terms. First, Robert would only attend shows at Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden. He would display himself only two times a day for three minutes. He refused to allow any exaggeration of his height via media releases or standard height enhancing sideshow trickery like platform shoes, top hats and trick photography. Furthermore, Robert would only display himself in the centre ring and refused any association with the sideshow. Despite all of these restrictions, Robert proved to be incredibly popular.

Robert was so popular that following his time with Ringling Bros. he signed a fabulous contract with The International Shoe Company. The deal included quite a bit of travel and personal appearances and in just under a year Robert had made over 800 appearances and traveled over 300,000 miles. Perhaps most importantly, the company provided Robert with free shoes – a big deal when you are a size 37 and your shoes cost over $100 a piece.

Robert’s feet always gave him a lot of trouble and due to the weight they had to support, they formed blisters often. Believe it or not, it was a blister that killed the gentle giant.

On July 4th, 1940 – after appearing in a Forth of July – Robert developed a blister. That blister became infected and Robert was unable to check into a hospital as they could not accommodate a man of his size. The infection progressed as Robert was attended to in a makeshift medical facility based in Robert’s hotel room. Surgery, antibiotics and blood transfusions were not enough and Robert passed away on July 15th, 1940 at 1:30am. He was only twenty-two and stood eight feet, eleven inches.

His funeral was attended by 40,000 mourners. It took twelve pallbearers to hoist his thousand pound casket. A life sized statue of Robert Wadlow still stands in his hometown of Alton, Illinois.

It is a testament to a man who was the very definition of a Human Marvel.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

21 Comments

  • Reply January 7, 2008

    Johnny C

    Hi,

    Keep up the great work!

    I’m sure you’ll really enjoy my Robert Wadlow Blog…… 15 pages of Robert Wadlow photograph galleries – SENSATIONAL! http://robertwadlow.blogspot.com/

    Also, I’m sure you’ll be amazed to see my 7-part Blog documenting Grady Patterson – medical history’s second-tallest human being http://gradypatterson.blogspot.com/

    Maybe you’d like to exchange links between our respective websites?

    Regards, Johnny C

  • Reply June 15, 2008

    Anonymous

    sad..

  • Reply July 21, 2008

    Anonymous

    My mother saw Robert Wadlow when she was very young. She said he was both amazing, and seemed like e very gentle soul.

  • Reply January 8, 2009

    Haley Christman

    scarey cool.
    i cant believe it!

  • Reply January 15, 2009

    Eric Alder

    My grandmother was Robert Wadlow’s cousin, Winnifred Wadlow, so I’ve always been interested in his story. Nice feature.

  • [...] interesting post on Robert can be found here. A short documentary can be found [...]

  • Reply December 16, 2009

    aramx

    Actually Grady Patterson has been proven to be a fake. Here’s the proof. He actually never even existed and was just a cleverly designed hoax on the Internet!
    http://www.thetallestman.com/gradypatterson.htm
    And John Rogan and John F. Caroll’s heights are very doubtful because there is very little evidence on them being over 8 1/2 feet tall. Thus the 2nd tallest human being on record is probably considerably shorter than Wadlow but still well over 8 feet. It would probably be the medically authenicated 8’3″ Vaino Myllryinne of Finland.

  • Reply December 26, 2009

    itsmetoo

    Yao Ming, who plays for the Houston’s (allegedly) professional basketball team, the rockets is 7’6″.

  • Reply January 28, 2010

    joe

    JOHANN PETURSSON is prolly the 2nd tallest man at 8 feet 8 in robert dethroned him but Johann lived to be like 60+

  • Reply May 12, 2011

    AMANDA

    Is from Alton Illinois. My Grandfather has pictures of Robert Wadlow pulling my great grandmother around in a wagon. I just assumed everyone knew about Robert Waldow, it wasn’t until I became an adult and moved away that I realized not everyone knows about him. I would tell people I was from Alton Illinois, home town of Robert Wadlow and they would just look at me like, who is that??

  • Reply May 30, 2011

    shmuel

    The tallest man in the world is actuly Goliath, he measured 9′ tall.

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    Emily

    he is very tall..

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    Emily

    HE has a big shoe..

  • [...] ROBERT WADLOW – The Tallest Man | The Human Marvels The tallest man in recorded history, Robert Wadlow, spent less than a year in the circus – and none … My Grandfather has pictures of Robert Wadlow pulling my great grandmother around in a wagon. … [...]

  • Reply November 25, 2011

    BSMFAM

    Poor guy, just think how much pain he must have been in through his life, height, weight and standing on two legs? Just think of all the back trouble and joint pain he would have gone though, I wouldn’t trade places for all the tea in China.

  • Reply February 19, 2012

    ali

    I have a good feeling that he was a gint gaint

  • Reply February 19, 2012

    ali

    and a kind soul whit a good heart like ine other its just part of his prsonalate but its just whats inside that counts

  • Reply February 19, 2012

    ali

    I frist him about he at ripley’s thay a a statut i am nine i have a deeper intrest in him now

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    IKOKWU Prosper, from Abia State, Nigeria

    Wow! very touching, good bye.

  • Reply August 10, 2012

    reanuke

    at the age of 9 he was 6ft 2 inch oh my god

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