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.
what to do with the almost nine feet of body. Breaking out of their huddle
they headed for the linen closet. The maids pushed two beds together, end
to end, with a headboard and footboard removed. Next, two sheets were sewn
together for a really king-sized bottom sheet. Two more were stitched together
for the top. Over these were put two blankets pinned together with safety
When the tallest man in
the world, Robert
Wadlow, visited Elko on
August 8, 1938 he
consented to have his picture
William Duncan at the south
entrance of the
Commercial Hotel in Elko.
from the newspaper files
at the Northeastern
Nevada Museum, Elko.
|They stepped out of the lobby onto the sidewalk where the
two stood side by side. Duncan's head was even with Robert's belt. The
visitor from Alton, Illinois was the world's tallest man. At 8 feet 8 inches
he weighed 480 pounds and wore a size 36 shoe. He had the appropriate job
of advertising for a shoe company.
He entered the hotel again, ducking to go through the door. The tall
boy was like other visitors to Nevada and tried his luck on the handle
of a one-armed bandit and, like many other tourists, lost his four nickels.
Meanwhile, during the excitement downstairs, maids were scratching
their collective heads wondering
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
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
©1998 by Howard
Hickson. If any portion or all of this article is used or quoted proper
credit must be given to the authors.
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