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A real life gentle giant

Robert Wadlow was the grand marshall for Manistee's Forest festival in 1940
Robert Wadlow was the grand marshall for Manistee's Forest festival in 1940

Every year as the city of Manistee celebrates the July 4th holiday, some thoughts turn to Robert Wadlow, the “giant” who was part of the 4th of July parade in 1940. Robert Wadlow was from Alton, Illinois. He was the tallest man in recorded history at 8 feet 11.1 inches and 485 pounds (that measurement being taken 18 days before his untimely death).

Mr. Wadlow’s size was due to a condition called hypertrophy of the pituitary gland, which produced an abnormally high level of the human growth hormone. He started his life as a “normal” size baby, weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces at birth. However, he grew at a dramatic rate. By age eight he was 6’ 2” tall. His growth never stopped throughout his lifetime. In 1936 he toured the United States with the Ringling Brothers Circus billed as the “world’s tallest man.”

Sadly his great height placed a lot of strain on his body and he needed a brace and cane to walk. His shoes were size 37AA. But iIn spite of his size he was a very gentle person.

Unfortunately during his appearance at the Manistee Forest Festival a flawed brace irritated his ankle, causing a blister. The blister resulted in an acute infection that resulted in his death on July 15, 1940. Mr. Wadlow was only 22 years old.

Mr. Wadlow’s funeral on July 19th in Alton, Illinoiswas attended by 40,000 people. His half-ton coffin was carried by twelve pallbearers. Because his family was concerned about his remains being disturbed his coffin was placed in a solid concrete vault.
The giant who died in Manistee is remembered even 70+ years later.

At Snyder’s Shoe Store in downtown Manistee there is a life-size representation of him in the store. One of his size 37AA shoes is also on display. This gentle giant will never be forgotten.

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