ROBERT WADLOW

of Alton, III.

 

Robert Pershing Wadlow was  born, educated and buried in Alton, Illinois. His height of 8' 11.1" qualifies  him as the tallest person in history, as recorded in the Guinness Book  of Records. At the time of his death he weighed 490 pounds.

 

Robert was born on February  22, 1918, and weighed a normal eight pounds, six ounces. He drew attention  to himself when at six months old, he weighed 30 pounds. A year later  at 18 months, he weighed 62 pounds. He continued to grow at an astounding  rate, reaching six feet, two inches and 195 pounds by the time he was  eight years old.

 

His middle name, Pershing,  was in honor of the World War I General Pershing, then commanding officer  of the European conflict. Robert was the first born of Addie and Harold  Wadlow. Later the Wadlow family grew with the addition of two sisters,  Helen and Betty, and two brothers, Eugene and Harold Jr. Despite Robert's  size, all of his family members  were of normal height and weight.

 

Trying  to maintain a normal life, Robert enjoyed collecting stamps, photography,  and become the world's tallest Boy Scout at seven feet, four inches, when  he was 13 years of age. Later he became a member of DeMolay and the Masons..

 

At age 18, he had reached eight  feet, four inches tall, and weighed 390 pounds. His clothing required  three times the normal amount of  cloth, and his size 37 shoes cost $100.00 a pair (a lot of money back  in the 1930's). Two years later his shoes were provided free by the International  Shoe Company.

 

When he turned 20 Robert traveled for the shoe company,  visiting over 800 towns  and 41 states. His father had to modify the family car, removing the front  passenger seat so Robert could sit in the back seat and stretch out his  long legs. The father and son team traveled over 300,000 miles on their  goodwill tour for the shoe company.

 

He established his place in  the history books when he exceeded eight feet, four inches in 1937, surpassing  the record previously held by an Irishman who died in 1877.

 

Robert was very fond of his  mother Addie, and there was a quiet manner about him that earned him the title 'Gentle Giant'.

 

Robert's unique size was attributed  to an over active pituary gland, which produced much higher than normal  levels of growth hormone  Today's medical science can compensate for such  problems - but in the 1920s there was no therapy available.

 

As a youth, Robert had enjoyed  good health, but his large feet had troubled him for many years. He had  little sensation in his feet and did not feel any chafing until blisters  formed. While making an appearance in Manistee, Michigan in July 1940,  a fatal infection set in when such a blister formed. On July 4th, doctors  had Robert confined to a hotel bed, unable to find suitable accommodations  at the local hospital. Days later, after emergency surgery and blood transfusions,  the infection lingered and his temperature continued to rise. At 1:30  a.m., on the 15th of July, Robert Wadlow passed away in his sleep.

 

Robert's body was brought back to his home town of Alton for burial. The 1,000-pound casket required a dozen pallbearers, assisted by eight other men. Out of respect for Alton's Gentle Giant, all city businesses closed for the funeral. Over 40,000 people signed the guest  register Robert's gravestone simply reads "At Rest." Robert Wadlow holds a special place in Alton's history. He is remembered as a quiet young  man who overcame a unique handicap, and who was an inspiration to all of those that knew him.


 

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