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Pennsylvania's Irish Giant

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Colossal Irish Giant Hugh Murphy


S amuel Wilhelm of Host, Berks County, decided he would put his size to use. So in the spring of 1875 the 29-year-old applied for consideration as the next "Irish Giant."

Ireland has a long history of "Giants" going back as far as the 1700s. Today we would likely attribute heights of more than seven feet to pituitary gigantism. Centuries ago, however, these men (and women) were considered "freaks of nature." Indeed, many were treated as curiosities if not celebrities and there are a long line of men - from the Byrne family in particular - who bore the Irish Giant moniker.

Berks County's giant's true height is unknown. Some news reports placed him over nine feet - however this is highly unlikely. Even P. T. Barnum's famous "Colossal Irish Giant Hugh Murphy" was only seven feet, two inches. There is little question that Wilhelm's size was immense, however, for he was written of in newspapers across the country.

Samuel Wilhelm was born on January 17, 1846. He was christened in the Host Reformed Church three months later. There was nothing to indicate that Jacob and Levina Wilhelm might birth a son who would grow as large as Samuel for their other children were of ordinary size. Clearly Samuel Wilhelm was a surprise not only to his family but to his community who described the young man as muscular and well-built with a "grasp like an iron vice."

While there are no confirmed reports of the outcome of his application, it appears that - at least in the case of P. T. Barnum - Wilhelm was denied "Irish Giant" status as there are no records of him touring with the famous showman. What ultimately became of Pennsylvania's giant is unknown, but for a brief time he was the stuff of headlines. 💀


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