Birthday: February 22, 1918
Died At Age: 22
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Alton Giant, Giant of Illinois
Born in: Alton, Illinois
Famous as: Tallest Person Ever Known
Height: 2.72 m
father: Harold Franklin Wadlow
mother: Addie Johnson
siblings: Betty Jean, Eugene Harold, Helen and Harold Franklin Wadlow Jr.
Died on: July 15, 1940
place of death: Manistee, Michigan
U.S. State: Illinois
education: Alton High School, Shurtleff College
Robert Wadlow was an American who was the tallest person in recorded history as per the Guinness Book of Records. Also known as the Giant of Illinois and the Alton Giant, he suffered from hyperplasia that resulted in his abnormally high rate of growth that didn’t end even at the time of his death. Wadlow’s height at the time of his death was 8 ft. 11.1 in. Born to average sized parents Harold Franklin Wadlow and Addie Johnson, he had two brothers and two sisters who were of average height and weight. At one point in his life, Wadlow's size began to take its toll and he was advised to use leg braces to walk. Despite all the difficulties he faced, he never used a wheelchair and even went to college to get a proper education like his peers. He became a celebrity in 1936 after he toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus. His stardom touched new heights when he went on a tour with the International Shoe Company. Charming and smart, Wadlow enjoyed photography and collecting stamps. He died in his sleep, on July 15, 1940, at the young age of 22.
Robert Wadlow was born on February 22, 1918 in Alton, Illinois to Addie and Harold Franklin. He weighed 8 lbs. 6 oz. at the time of his birth, which was well within the normal weight range for newborns. However, later on, his weight increased rapidly as did his height. He was the oldest of five children. His siblings were Eugene, Harold Jr., Betty and Helen.
By the age of eight, he was taller than his father. At the age of nine, Wadlow, with a height of 6 ft. 2 ½ in. and weight of 180 lbs., was strong enough to carry his father up the stairs. By the time he completed his high school education from Alton High School, he was 8 ft. 4 in. After he graduated from school in 1936, Wadlow attended Shurtleff College to study law. However, he dropped out later due to complications arising from his great size.
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Robert Wadlow became a celebrity after he toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus in the USA in 1936. Two years later, he went on a tour with the International Shoe Company. The shoe company also made shoes of his size which it provided to him free of cost. Wadlow continued touring and making public appearances until the last year of his life during which his health started deteriorating rapidly.
Wadlow was also a member of a Masonic-sponsored organization for young men called Order of DeMolay. By November 1939, he had been raised to the degree of Master Mason. His Freemason ring was the largest one ever made.
One year before his death, Robert Wadlow broke the record of the tallest man recorded at that time, John Rogan, by surpassing his height. He was then recorded as the tallest person ever.
Death & Legacy
On July 4, 1940, during his appearance at Manistee National Forest Festival, a brace irritated Wadlow’s ankle, causing a swelling and subsequent infection. Following the infection, the doctors performed an emergency surgery on him. However, Wadlow’s condition deteriorated because of an autoimmune disorder and on July 15, 1940, he breathed his last in his sleep at the age of 22. His body was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery located in Upper Alton, Madison County, Illinois.
A life-size statue of Wadlow, who is still remembered as the "Gentle Giant," was erected at College Avenue in Alton in 1986. This statue is located opposite to the Alton Museum of History and Art. Other statues of the well-known celebrity stand in many of Ripley's Believe It or Not Museums and also in the Guinness Museums. Another life-size statue of Wadlow can be seen at the Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Michigan.
The 1998 track titled "The Giant of Illinois", by the American duo ‘The Handsome Family’ honors Robert Wadlow. In the year 2005, popular singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens recorded his song "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" for the ‘Illinois’ album in order to honor the Alton Giant. Besides these, a picture of Wadlow and his family is depicted on the back cover of the Video Home System version of the Talking Heads music video compilation, ‘Storytelling Giant.’
He had a daily intake of 6,000 to 8,000 calories!