Robert Pershing Wadlow

Alton's "Gentle Giant" turns a century old

Robert's Story

Born February 22, 1918

Robert Pershing Wadlow was of normal height and weight when born. He weighed only 8.5 pounds at birth. By age 10, he was 6-5, 210 pounds. He topped 7 feet at age 13, then was 7-8 at age 15. He topped 8 feet at age 17. At age 22, before his death he was 8 feet 11.1 inches and still growing.

Robert spent his later years in life touring the country with an endorsement from Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis and the Wringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He graduated from Alton High School in 1936 and then attended Shurtleff College in Alton for one year.

Robert died at age 22, July 14, 1940 in Manistee, Mich., after suffering a foot infection. He had been walking in a parade when a poorly-fitted leg brace rubbed a blister that eventually became infected.

Alton’s “Gentle Giant” Robert Wadlow marks his 100th birthday on Feb. 22, 2018. Wadlow remains the world’s tallest man at 8 feet 11.1 inches tall as he turns a century old.

The Alton Museum of History & Art has an exhibit in Wadlow’s memory with many of his relics from childhood, including a sled, his graduation cap, shoes, his desk at Milton School in Alton and much more.

Dan Brannan's book, “Boy Giant,” available at the museum, tells Robert’s story through the eyes of his only living brother at the time, Harold, and many friends and people across the country who became acquainted with him. Across from the museum on College Avenue in Alton is the Wadlow Statue. Steve Tassinari, an Alton resident, and Alton-Godfrey Rotary, and Alton area Optimist Clubs, played a key role in organizing and completing that project. Also next to the statue is a chair and Alton resident Scott Neudecker was a catalyst behind that.

Wadlow had a lasting impact on Alton and is remembered for not only his height, but his kind and gentle nature.

SEE VIDEO FROM BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: ALTON - Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, was a memorable day in Alton as the 100th birthday of the Guinness Book of World Records tallest man - Robert Wadlow - was celebrated. There were several parties and celebrations throughout schools and businesses in the area. One of the largest and most meaningful birthday parties was held at the Alton Museum of History and Art. The museum was busy throughout all... read more

Pros & Cons of His Height


  • Good at picking cherries
  • Good at Basketball, known as "the dropper"
  • Free rides at the carnival
  • Only able to use new pencils


  • Bad at Hide and Seek
  • Had to sit in the back of the classroom
  • Getting charged adult admission on the bus
  • Doorways and stairways were too short


How would you classify your height?


Buy the BookBoy Giant by Dan Brannan

Are you interested in reading more about Robert Wadlow? Purchase "Boy Giant" written by's own Dan Brannan. "Boy Giant" is the story of Robert Wadlow's life, death, and incredible journey.