Cuba, MO

The Hayes Shoe Store in Cuba, Missouri has shoes that belonged to Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in the world

CJ Coombs
Robert Wadlow's shoe size US size 37 AA compared to a US size 12.Doug Coldwell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are a few places in the country where you can see a pair of shoes worn by the tallest person in the world. You can go to the Hayes Shoe Store in Cuba, Missouri, Alton Museum of History and Art in Illinois, and believe it or not, even Pike's Place Market in Seattle.

Who was Robert Wadlow?

Some who knew Robert Wadlow nicknamed him The Gentle Giant. Wadlow (b. Feb. 22, 1918, d. July 15, 1940) was also known as the Giant of Illinois. He was born in Alton, Illinois which is close to St. Louis, Missouri. He had four siblings who didn't have the abnormal human growth hormone condition.

At the time of Wadlow's death at age 22, he was 8 ft., 11 in. tall, and his weight was 439 lbs. His condition with his growth was a result of hypertrophy of his pituitary gland which leads to an abnormal level of human growth hormone. Allegedly, even before he died, his growth might have continued.

As Wadlow grew, he needed special furniture constructed for his size. When he was 8, he needed a larger desk in school. When he was 13, in order to make Wadlow a Boy Scout uniform, it took 14 yards of material. In 1936, when he completed high school, he was 8 ft., 4 in. tall. He had a plan to study law in college.
Front of postcard of Robert Wadlow (left) with his average-size father (right).Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

While Wadlow didn't use a wheelchair, he needed leg braces to help with walking. He didn't have a lot of feeling in his feet or legs.

In 1936, he toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus. He did a promotional tour in 1938 with the International Shoe Company and as such, his shoes were provided at no cost. With either organization, he never viewed himself as some kind of a freak.

In July 1940, one of Wadlow's braces supposedly faulty, caused his ankle to become irritated leading to an infection. Even though he received surgery and a blood transfusion, because he had an autoimmune disorder, he didn't improve. Wadlow died in his sleep on July 15, 1940.

In 1986, a life-size statue of Wadlow was erected near the Alton Museum of History and Art. Click here to see more images of Wadlow in his growing years.

Sandy Allen came to Alton 20 years ago to mark Wadlow’s 80th birthday. At the time, she was 7 feet 7 inches tall and was the world’s tallest woman. (Source.)

The founders of Guinness World Records, twins Norris and Ross McWhirter said that Robert Wadlow was the tallest man "of whom there is irrefutable evidence".

A post on the Facebook page of Hayes Shoe Store displays a life-size cut-out of Wadlow and a pair of his shoes worn by Wadlow the store is proud to display.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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