The Story Of The Tallest Man Who Ever Lived
Robert Pershing Wadlow was born in 1918 to Harold and Addie Wadlow of Illinois and was the oldest of 5 children.
When Robert turned one, he was already 3’5” tall and weighed 45 pounds. His growth spurt never stopped and by age eight he was already way taller than his father.
His extraordinary growth was fueled by a hyperactive pituitary gland. In 1937, Wadlow became a record-holder for the world’s tallest man when his height reached 8 feet and 4 inches.
Wadlow was a mild-mannered young man so he was called by people as the “gentle giant.” He loves photography and playing guitar, but he had to stop both hobbies when his hands grew too large for the instruments.
Robert at age 10 standing next to his classmate. At 6'6" he towered over all the kids and 99% of adults, c. 1928
At age 6, Robert was already taller than his dad when he measured 6 feet. His father was 5' 11. This is Robert at 10.
Wadlow at age 17 with his brothers, 1935
The Wadlows at dinner, c. 1938
April 15, 1937
Wadlow is fitted for a jacket, 1939
Wadlow stoops for a drink during his visit to the Daily News offices in New York, c. 1937
Wadlow chatting with a friend in Omaha, Nebraska, April 1, 1937
12-year-old Robert with Boxing legend, Primo Carnera. Primo was 6' 9 and Robert was 7'2".
Robert with his family in 1935. At age 17, he was 8' 1 and weighed 315lbs.
At the age of 18 he became a goodwill ambassador for an international shoe company. As a result, he traveled around the country in the family car. His father removed the front passenger seat of the car so that Robert could stretch his legs and sit comfortably.
At 18, he wore a size 37 shoe that was custom-made and costs $100 - roughly $1,650 in today's dollars. When he became ambassador for the shoe company they were provided free of charge.
Robert's size 37AAA shoes.
For comparison, next to a size 12 shoe.
Robert Wadlow posing with the "Sons of the Pioneers" at the Texas Centennial, 1936
Robert with his family.
Robert with his mom and younger sister, 1938
Wadlow travels aboard the Queen Mary, April 1937
Robert greets Movie star Mary Pickford at the St. Louis airport. At the age of 20, he got a cane because he had difficulty walking.
On July 4, 1940, during his appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, causing a blister which subsequently developed into a parasitic infection.
Doctors treated him with a blood transfusion and emergency surgery, but his condition worsened due to an auto-immune disorder. On July 15, 1940, He died in his sleep at age 22. At least 27,000 people attended his funeral. He was burried under a vault of concrete because his parents fear for the sanctity of his body.
Upon the death of Robert Wadlow, his family had almost all of his belongings destroyed, except his shoes apparently.
They didn’t want collectors to purchase his things to be displayed as any kind of "freak" memorabilia. He led a tough and a rather short life but his legacy as a kind-hearted "gentle giant" remains.