View from the Top
August 8, 1938 was one of those hot Elko days that encourages a bit of dozing on the job. Desk Clerk William Duncan at the Commercial Hotel sleepily looked up to greet an arriving guest. His eyes bulged awake when he saw the young 20-year-old man standing at the desk to check to check in for the night.
Robert Wadlow signed the register as a crowd gathered to take a look
at the stranger. All were amazed. Duncan asked if he could have his picture
snapped with Wadlow and the amiable youngster agreed.
Robert Wadlow stayed in Elko for only one night but he left with memories of a hotel with a friendly staff that didn't bat an eye when confronted for accommodations for the world's tallest man.
A few notes about Robert Pershing Wadlow: He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest man in medical history. He was measured three weeks before he died and was almost nine feet tall. He was born February 22, 1918 in Alton, Illinois weighing a near normal 8.7 pounds. His greatest weight was 491 pounds. His hands were about thirteen inches from the wrist to top of the middle finger and his shoes were size 37AA, that's more than eighteen inches long. Before International Shoe Company provided free shoes, they cost $100.00 a pair (in today's money that's six to seven hundred dollars). Some of these measurements differ from those stated in the story but Wadlow lived two more years and was still growing when he died.
During the trip when he stopped in Elko, he and his father were visiting 800 towns in 41 states for the shoe company. His dad removed the front passenger seat so Robert could sit in the back seat and stretch out his long legs.
In kindergarten he was 5'6'' tall, wearing clothing that would fit a 17-year-old boy. In 1929 he had his first medical checkup where the family was told that the boy had an over active pituitary gland. Too late for Robert, medical science today can compensate for the problem. In 1931 he was the largest Boy Scout in the world at 7'4" weighing 270 pounds. The "Gentle Giant" died July 15, 1940.
Sources: Elko Free Press, Elko, Nevada, August 10, 1938 and two web sites: Guinness Book of World Records and Alton Museum of History and Art.
27 March 1999