Sweetums is 6-foot-7 so when we were driving through Alton, Illinois, home of the World’s Tallest Man, we had no choice but to stop and see how Sweetums’ measured up.
Robert Pershing Wadlow was born in Alton on February 22, 1918, and lived there until his death on July 15, 1940, at just 22 years of age. Wadlow grew to be 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall. This was in an era before treatments for “giantisim,” caused by an overactive pituitary gland, was effectively treated.
In 1985, Alton honored its famous resident with a life-size statue of Wadlow and an inscription that describes him as a “gentle giant.” He earned a living representing the shoe company that made his custom size-22 shoes. A biography on the Alton Museum of History and Art website says, “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.”
Near his statue is a life-size replica of Wadlow’s custom-made chair. Sweetums looked tiny next to the Wadlow statue, while I was swallowed by the huge chair. I looked like Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann, for those old enough to remember.
If you’re in the area, this makes a great photo opp and a way to remember a big man who seemed to have an even bigger heart. Set your GPS to 2800 College Avenue in Alton and you’ll see the statues. Click here to see Wadlow’s page on the Guinness World Records site.
(Historic photo of Wadlow and his mother courtesy of Alton Museum of History and Art)