Biography of Harold Wadlow: Know His Age, Early Life, Personal Life, Challenges, Spouse, Children & Legacy

Meet Harold Wadlow, a man whose life, though often overshadowed by the towering legacy of his son, Robert Pershing Wadlow, played a pivotal role in the extraordinary narrative of the Wadlow family. Born in 1886 in Alton, Illinois, Harold Wadlow embarked on a journey of family, courage, and unexpected fame. As the patriarch of the Wadlow clan, he faced the challenges of raising a son who would go on to be recognized as the tallest person in recorded history.

Join me as we unravel the lesser-known chapters of Harold Wadlow’s life, exploring the early years, the trials and triumphs, and the enduring legacy he left behind.

Harold Wadlow’s Wiki

Full NameHarold Wadlow
Birth Year1886
BirthplaceAlton, Illinois
Marriage Year1905
SpouseAddie Johnson
Number of Children5
Notable ChildRobert Pershing Wadlow (the Alton Giant)
Final Years1940
OccupationSalesman and Alton Board of Education member

Early Life of Harold Wadlow

The initial member of the Wadlow family, Harold Wadlow, was born in Alton, Illinois, in the late 1800s. He encountered the hardships and victories of a bygone era while growing up in the American heartland, which shaped his values and character.

Family of Harold Wadlow

Harold Wadlow wed Addie Johnson in 1905, and the two raised five kids together. Robert, their second child, would become well-known as the Alton Giant. Like many fathers in his era, Harold Wadlow put in a lot of work to support his family. The Wadlow family was modest, and Harold’s values clearly indicate his dedication to his family’s welfare.

Challenges and Triumphs

Harold Wadlow faced many obstacles, including the financial hardships of the Great Depression. He supported his family and taught them to persevere in the face of hardship by remaining strong in the face of adversity.

Harold Wadlow and Addie brought Robert into the world in 1918. They had no idea their son would reach previously unheard-of fame and physical prowess.

Legacy of Harold Wadlow

Beyond his son’s colossal stature, Harold Wadlow left behind a lasting legacy. His dedication to the Wadlow family, fortitude in adversity, and unwavering support for Robert left a lasting impression on the narrative.

Harold Wadlow lived a life devoted to his family and hard work, and his legacy is woven into the fantastic story of the Alton Giant, a tale of love, tenacity, and the unbreakable bond between a remarkable father and his extraordinary son.

Harold Wadlow’s Son, Robert Pershing Wadlow

Harold Wadlow

Robert Pershing Wadlow, born on February 22, 1918, in the quaint city of Alton, Illinois, left an indelible mark on history as a man whose towering stature set him apart.

Fondly known as the “Alton Giant” and the “Giant of Illinois,” Wadlow’s nicknames emphasize his colossal physical presence and reflect the awe and fascination surrounding his extraordinary height.

Beyond Alton’s borders, Wadlow is the tallest person in recorded history, standing at an awe-inspiring height of 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m). His towering figure has become a symbol of both marvel and curiosity, making him an iconic figure whose significance reverberates through the annals of human history.

Early Life

Robert Pershing Wadlow entered the world on February 22, 1918, in the charming city of Alton, Illinois, setting the stage for a life defying conventional norms.

His family, anchored by parents Harold Franklin and Addie May Wadlow, provided the backdrop for Wadlow’s extraordinary journey. Their lives were forever touched by the presence of a son who would grow to become a literal giant.

Even in his earliest years, Wadlow’s growth trajectory was astonishing. By the tender age of 8, he had already surpassed his father’s height, marking the beginning of a physical transformation that would captivate the imagination of all who crossed his path.

Wadlow’s school days were a testament to his unique stature. A special desk was crafted to accommodate his growing frame during his elementary years, a tangible reminder of the exceptional journey he was destined to undertake. As he reached the graduation milestone from Alton High School in 1936, he stood tall at an impressive height of 8 ft 4 in (254 cm), foreshadowing the remarkable heights he would achieve in the years to come.

Adulthood and Education

Harold Wadlow

Stepping into adulthood with aspirations beyond his towering stature, Robert Pershing Wadlow enrolled at Shurtleff College, driven by the intention of pursuing studies in law. His intellectual pursuits reflected a determination to transcend the physical boundaries set by his extraordinary height.

However, Wadlow’s journey was challenging. The root of his colossal stature lay in the hypertrophy of his pituitary gland, leading to an abnormally high level of human growth hormone (HGH). While defining his uniqueness, this condition presented its own set of obstacles on his path.

Wadlow’s daily life was marked by the need for leg braces to facilitate walking. Despite facing physical limitations and having little feeling in his legs and feet, he navigated the world with resilience, eschewing the use of a wheelchair that might have provided convenience but was incongruent with his steadfast determination.

His decision not to use a wheelchair became a testament to his unwavering spirit. Wadlow chose to face the world on his feet, embracing the challenges posed by his exceptional stature rather than succumbing to the ease of a wheelchair. This choice spoke volumes about his commitment to live life on his terms, transcending the physical constraints imposed by his towering frame.

Celebrity Status

Harold Wadlow

1936 catapulted Robert Pershing Wadlow into the limelight as he embarked on a mesmerizing U.S. tour with the illustrious Ringling Brothers Circus. His towering presence became a spectacle that captivated audiences nationwide, setting the stage for a celebrity status that transcended the confines of his colossal frame.

The grandeur of Wadlow’s celebrity reached new heights as he graced iconic venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden during his circus appearances. In the center ring, Wadlow stood as a living testament to human potential, captivating the imagination of all who beheld him.

In an act of defiance against conventional expectations, Wadlow refused to conform to the circus’s request that he wear a top hat and tails during his performances. Dressed in his everyday clothes, he challenged stereotypes and asserted his individuality, becoming not just a spectacle but a symbol of authenticity.

Building on his newfound fame, Wadlow embarked on a promotional tour in 1938 with the International Shoe Company. This venture saw him continue to capture the public’s imagination, all while clad in his everyday street clothes. In his own words, Wadlow saw himself as working in advertising, not as an exhibit in a sideshow. This distinction further solidified his status as a unique and dignified celebrity.

Personal Beliefs and Affiliations

Beyond the spectacle of his towering stature, Robert Pershing Wadlow held a distinct perspective on his public role. He saw himself not as a mere curiosity or a freak but a contributor to the advertising world. Wadlow sought to redefine his presence, emphasizing his individuality and purpose beyond the physical aspects that garnered attention.

In his pursuit of a sense of belonging and purpose, Wadlow became a member of the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic-sponsored organization for young men. This affiliation provided a community transcending societal expectations, allowing him to connect with others who valued character, leadership, and personal growth.

Wadlow’s journey within the Masonic fraternity continued to unfold as, by November 1939, he attained the distinguished title of master mason under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F., and A.M. This accomplishment reflected not only his commitment to personal development but also his integration into a respected and longstanding institution, showcasing a depth to Wadlow’s identity beyond his towering physical stature.

Height Achievements

Harold Wadlow

One year before bidding farewell to the world, Robert Pershing Wadlow achieved a milestone that etched his name into the annals of height history. In a towering ascent, he surpassed John Rogan, securing the title of the tallest person ever recorded. This accomplishment, achieved in November 1939, marked a poignant moment in Wadlow’s life, solidifying his place as a living testament to the boundless possibilities within the human form.

On June 27, 1940, 18 days before his untimely departure, Wadlow underwent a final measurement that would forever define his place in the records. At an astonishing height of 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 meters), he stood as a giant among men, a living paradox of the extraordinary potential and challenges accompanying unparalleled physical stature.

This definitive measurement affirmed his status as the tallest person in recorded history and immortalized Wadlow’s towering legacy for generations to come.

Death and Legacy

The vitality of a professional appearance at the Manistee National Forest Festival on July 4, 1940, took a sad turn for Robert Pershing Wadlow. A faulty brace, irritating his ankle, became the catalyst for an unexpected downturn, casting a shadow over the festivities and signaling the beginning of a tragic chapter in his extraordinary life.

Despite efforts to remedy the complications arising from the brace incident, Wadlow’s health deteriorated due to an autoimmune disease. His valiant battle against the unseen forces within his own body came to an end on July 15, 1940, as he peacefully departed in his sleep. The world mourned the loss of a man whose physical stature had become a symbol of both marvel and inspiration.

The enormity of Wadlow’s legacy extended beyond his physical dimensions. His coffin, measuring 10 feet 9 inches in length, 2 feet 8 inches in width, and 2 feet 6 inches in depth, weighed over 1,000 pounds. Twelve pallbearers and eight assistants bore the weight of his monumental resting place, carrying him to his final abode at Oakwood Cemetery in Upper Alton, Madison County, Illinois.

In 1986, a life-size statue was erected in honor of Robert Pershing Wadlow, standing as a sentinel opposite the Alton Museum of History and Art. This tribute encapsulated not just the physical enormity of his presence but also the enduring impact of his life. The statue became a beacon, inviting contemplation on the resilience, individuality, and profound legacy left by a man who stood head and shoulders above the rest in both life and death.


The father of the Alton Giant, Harold Wadlow, was instrumental in forming the story of one of the most remarkable families in history. His dedication to his family and the difficulties and victories he encountered give the compelling tale of the Wadlow family, indelibly recorded in human history, more nuance.

The World’s Tallest Man: Robert Wadlow 8’11”

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. How tall is the tallest person ever?

Ans: Robert Wadlow was the tallest man in history, standing eight feet eleven inches tall.

Q. How tall is the tallest girl?

Ans: Rumeysa Gelgi

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