There exists no better way to get a sense of an area’s culture, history, and way of life than by visiting its local museums. Art helps us capture aspects of humanity that are not easily described, viewed, or otherwise detailed. This reigns true at the Alton Museum of History & Art.
Here, visitors can see how the people of Southwest Illinois have persisted through the years, how they lived, their interesting historical characters, and much more. In fact, one exhibit at the Alton Museum of History & Art details the curious case of one Robert Pershing Wadlow. Wadlow was world renowned for his whopping height at 8’11.1″. Born in Alton in 1918, he was known as the boy who never stopped growing. Records indicate that the “gentle giant” was 6’2 by his eighth birthday. By adulthood, his life was pretty difficult compared to the average sized person. He had to purchase immensely large clothing, bedding, and shoes. He spent a fortune on his shoes- $100 a pair. Today that equates to nearly two-thousand dollars. Luckily for Robert, his height allowed him to become a sort of travel-marketer for an international shoe company. After notching 300,000 miles, 41 states, and 800 towns, Robert was something of a celebrity. Tragically, because of his extremely calloused feet from a lifetime of shoe issues he had little feeling in his feet. This ultimately led to the giant’s demise as he formed blisters at an event in Michigan that later became infected and prematurely ended his life. However, the legend of Robert Pershing Wadlow is well-maintained by the Alton Museum of History & Art where they have an impressive gentle giant exhibit.
Other than the famed giant of Alton, the museum has many other unique and fascinating exhibits, including one about the Alton Piasa Bird. The famed explorer, Father Jacques Marquette described the monster best, writing that he “was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger’s, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs.”
Other than giant humans and man-eating birds, the Alton Museum of History and Art has exhibits on the Lincoln/Douglas debates, the Civil War, and much more. To learn about local legends, historical figures, and historic events, visit to the Alton Museum of History and Art today!