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July 26, 2023

Jack Earle of El Paso, One of the World’s Tallest Humans, Stood at 7 Feet, 6.5 Inches

Jack Earle was born Jacob Rheuben Ehrlich on 3 July 1906 in Denver, Colorado, and he died 18 July 1952 in El Paso Texas. He was an American silent film actor and sideshow performer. In March 1939, during the Wadlow/Humberd trial, Earle said under oath that he was 7 feet 6.5 inches tall.

Jack Earle weighed only four pounds at birth and was so tiny that doctors feared he wouldn’t live. But immediately he began to grow at an incredible rate and by age ten was over six feet tall. He was discovered by Hollywood as a teenager and offered a job acting in comedies. He made over fifty of them, until one day on the set when he fell from a scaffolding. When he woke up, he found he was losing his peripheral vision, due to a newly-discovered pituitary gland tumor. Doctors attempted to shrink the tumor with X-rays which miraculously both restored his sight and stopped his incredible growth.

Jack enrolled in college, during which he went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus where he saw Jim Tarver, billed as ‘the tallest man in the world.’ He was taller than Tarver and Jack Earle joined the circus and traveled with them for fourteen years. Upon retiring from the circus, Jack Earle became a successful traveling salesman and was intensely creative. He painted, sculpted, and was a prize-winning photographer.

Erlich’s July 19, 1952 obituary in the El Paso Times read:

“Jack Erlich, eight-foot, seven-inch ‘friendly giant’ loved by thousands of West Coast children, will be buried here tomorrow with Jewish Orthodox services. The retired San Francisco Wine salesman, better known to Californians as Jack Earle, didn’t get to occupy the $20,000 house he was having built in El Paso. The house has rooms nine feet high, and the shower heads in the baths are eight feet above the floor.
The 47-year-old giant died at Hotel Dieu Friday night. Physicians said he had already lived much longer than giants usually live. Death was due to his kidney’s ceasing to function. A special casket was ordered from Dallas for the 370-pound giant, and it arrived here today. Eight pallbearers will be used at the funeral instead of the usual six.”


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