Robert Wadlow's height of 8' 11.1" qualifies him as the tallest person in history, as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. At the time of his death he weighed 490 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 and stretch out his long legs. The father and son team traveled over 300,000 miles on their goodwill tour for the shoe company. Wadlow traveled to Perry County on May 4th 1939. The photos on this page were taken during Wadlow's appearance at Smith's Department store in Bulan. Wadlow also appeared in Hazard and spent the night at the Grand Hotel on Main Street. He traveled to Vicco, KY for a stop at Martin's Department Store where another crowd was on hand.
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 1930s 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. 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, Illinois for burial. The 1,000-pound casket required a dozen pallbearers, assisted by eight other men. Over 40,000 people signed the guest register. Robert's gravestone simply reads "At Rest."
"My mother, Ruth Hayes, told me stories of meeting Mr. Wadlow when she was a child growing up. Thank you for posting this, it brings memories." Paula Elvick, Sacramento, California
"I remember seeing Robert Wadlow in Hazard in 1939. I was 9 years old and remember seeing him walk down Main Street towering above the crowd of people and ducking under the store signs. I remember seeing him all 'hunched up' in the back seat of his parents' car when they stopped for gas at the service station across the street from Ma Duke's boarding house. My playmates and I were awe-struck at the sight of this gentle giant." Billie Reda Sowers
My mother, then Martha Martin, saw Wadlow at Vicco, and never forgot the event. The memory of his visit to the area was etched in her mind." V. Martin Ogrosky, Charlotte, NC
"It is a testament to a town when one can look at the local web page and find a page of its own set up for the tallest man to ever walk the earth. Thank God that giant man came to little Hazard. Now we have this beautiful page to remember him by. Although his visit to Hazard was such a short one, I loved that man dearly since he took the time to grace us with his presence." Anonymous
"My father, Corb Flannery, was 21 years old when Robert Wadlow came to Hazard in 1939. Years later, Dad told me of seeing Wadlow and marveling in his overall stature and the size of Wadlow's hands. Dad said that Robert hid a coke bottle by placing his hand in front of it; the width of his palm being larger than the 8 inch height of the bottle." Mike Flannery, Herndon, Va
"I can remember my dad talk of seeing Robert Wadlow on this visit to Hazard. He remained a marvel in my dad's mind." Marvin Smith, Daytona Beach, Florida
"This is an 'old wives tale'. My baby brother was born the year Robert Wadlow came to Hazard. My Mother, rest her soul, thought she had 'marked' my brother after he was born and continued to grow in height even through high school. She had seen the 'giant' that May in 1939 and my brother was born in December and reached the height of 6' 6 inches and of-course had been 'marked' because she had seen this tall man." Angelene Boyas North, Bradenton, Florida
"I was six years old. My dad, Bill Stout, took me to see him at the Martins store. He had big feet." Alta Haddix, Vicco, KY
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