Happy Birthday Robert!

“The tallest man in medical history for whom there is irrefutable evidence is Robert Pershing Wadlow.” --Guiness Book of World Records

One hundred years ago, Robert Wadlow made his way into the world at a healthy and relatively normal birth weight of 8 pounds, 7 ounces. Harold and Addie Wadlow of Alton celebrated the birth of their first-born child but it wasn’t long before they realized Robert wasn’t an average baby.

At six months old, he weighed 30 pounds and he continued to grow at an exponential rate. By the time he was eight years old, he towered over his father at 6 feet, 2 inches. At 19, he made history by topping 8 feet 4 inches tall.

It wasn’t easy being so tall. Special school desks had to be created for Robert as he made his way through school. Eventually, he had to use special canes to walk. He had to have custom shoes created as his feet grew over the years. Clothing required three times the normal amount of cloth. Eventually, Robert’s father had to remove the front seat in a car so Robert could sit in the back seat and travel.

Robert, who became known as Alton’s Gentle Giant, continued to grow through his early adult years and died in July 1940 at the age of 22 due to a foot infection. At the time of his death, he was 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall and weighed 439 pounds. Doctors cited an overactive pituitary gland for his astonishing growth, a condition which was untreatable in the early part of the 1900’s.

Described as a shy but friendly man, more than 40,000 people attended the funeral visitation for Robert. A total of 10,000 people were present for his funeral and all of Alton’s businesses closed in honor of the funeral.

A life sized bronze statue of Robert Wadlow erected at 2810 College Ave., Alton, and has become a favorite of visitors from around the world. Some artifacts from his life are also exhibited at the nearby Alton Museum of History and Art.

Alton will celebrate the 100th birth of the man who, to this day, is considered the tallest man in the world by the Guiness Book of World Records throughout 2018. For more information on planned events, click here.