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The Tall Cowboy: 1919

The Tall Cowboy: 1919

Washington, D.C., 1919. "Ralph E. Madsen, the tall cowboy, at White House." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Tall in the saddle

It's interesting that his parents are described as "medium height" when they'd still be considered tall for men and women today, and back then must have been quite a bit above average. Looks like a good man was born to them.

Fabulous chaps!

They've got to be custom-made for Ralph. They're probably as tall as I am. Where are they now, I wonder?

Sly Boots

Commonly known as "packer" boots. Quite common in the West.

Lace-up cowboy boots.

Justin makes them. I believe they're called "ropers."

Horse play

He was never difficult to track, as he left a distinctive trail in the sand.

I can only imagine what this man must have looked like on a horse, he´d be dragging his feet behind him or have his knees sticking out like a frog on a pencil.

Ralph Reminds Me

Ralph reminds me of a fellow truck driver I spotted at a truck stop in Kentucky a few years back. Not his height....his clothing....complete with spurs. I thought I'd laugh myself into hypoxia.

C'boy boots

Actually, there are lace-up cowboy boots, and those look like they have a riding heel.

In Defense of Ralph

Gotta give a man credit for making a living the best way he could. He's obviously dressed the way he is at the direction of "J. Sam Houston." While he was not really from Texas, Nebraskans can be pretty country and have lots of knowledge about livestock and such. So he doesn't have boots, so what? When you have leather-trimmed and studded chaps and leather-trimmed and studded cuffs on your jeans, you don't need no stinking boots.

Tall man, short life. Happy trails, Ralph.


I'm 5'1" and weigh the same as Ralph.

In the big fracas

Giant Ready for Draft

Tacoma will send a young giant into the National army when Ralph E. Madsen, twenty-one years old, is called for service. He is 7 feet 3 inches tall. Madsen is advertising shows, using his great height to advantage. He weighs 210 pounds and was born in Kansas, where his parents still reside. "Down on the old home farm the folks fed me real food and it made me grow tall," Madsen told the draft board. "I am rady to go, and I think I can be of some use in the big fracas with my altitude."

The Woodville Republican, March 29, 1919

And he was still growing!

All the way to the boots

Those are not exactly what you would call Cowboy Boots!

It Takes A Village Person

Visiting President Wilson, giving a preview of pop culture 60 years hence

They grow 'em big in Texas

Tex Madsen was a circus giant who was billed at 7 foot 6. They normally exaggerated these things, but he was still one tall drink of water.

He might be tall....

but he's no cowboy. That's a "dude" if there ever was one. His shoes say it all. He'd make a helluva scarecrow in the "Wizard of Oz" though.

Oh, and it would be fun to colorize his duds.

Some info I've found on Ralph

Date of Birth
19 April 1897, Norfolk, Nebraska, USA

Date of Death
26 November 1948, Norfolk, Nebraska, USA

Birth Name
Ralph E Madsen

Sky High Madison
High Bill Madesen

7' 6" (2.29 m)

Worked circus sideshows for years, billed as "The World's Tallest Man".

Where's Shorty?

You can't see The Short Cowboy, because he's inside one of those big pockets.

Look out Roy and Gene!

This guy is obviously just waiting for the cowboy movie genre to get going really well before he's off to Hollywood to make a fortune so he can buy a Duesenberg and put steer horns on it.

Sideshow Cowboy

The seven-foot six-inch "Tex" Madsen was 22 when this photo was taken, and was on a publicity tour organized by his agent, "J. Sam Houston," a sideshow and circus promoter. According to Houston's publicity releases, Madsen was raised on a ranch in Texas, but the gear he's wearing here is pure Wild West. Madsen was in Washington to enlist in the Army, which turned him down because of his height, and generated a lot of positive press for his entertainment career. Here he is with Houston, who is holding a copy of Billboard magazine.

Howdy Pardner

Looks like he scared his horse away. Can't imagine why

Village People

And I thought the Village People were a 70's group.


And the horse you came in on! What my mom used to call "a tall drink of water." I bet he ate his uvabe every day and twice on Sunday!!

Cowboy Attire

He appears dressed more for the grand opening of a Wal-Mart than an appearance at the White House.

A perfect example...

of why I keep coming back to Shorpy.

Slim Jim

Does anyone know how tall he was?

I need a taller monitor

My 22" widescreen just isn't tall enough. And it doesn't swivel, either. :-(

Just how tall *is* this guy, anyway?

90 Pound Weakling

A good prospect for a little sand kicked in his face.


It was bad enough...then I spied the lace up cowboy boots. Maybe he was the Barney Fife of the cowboy set back in those days.

Meet the cowboy!

"MR. RALPH MADSEN, "Big Boy," was born and raised in the State of Texas. Age, twenty-four years the 19th of last April. His height is seven and a half feet; weight, 228 pounds. His mother and father are of medium height; father about six foot two, mother five foot eight, two sisters and a brother about five foot eight. Mr. Madsen wears a size nine shoe, his hands are of an average size. He is healthy in every way, hearty and strong. Exceptionally strong in his arms and limbs. So you can readily see he is not on stilts as some people think. Mr. Madsen spent most of his life on a ranch and a greater part of it in the saddle, until he started to travel some six years ago. he has visited every State in the Union and parts of Mexico and Canada. Wishing to enlist in the Army, he tried both his home country and Canada, but was turned down on account of his extreme height.

Mr. Madsen has acquired a good practical education and is an authority on live stock, horses, cows, pigs and sheep. "

7'6" and Born Too Soon

The man was 7'6" and appeared in a couple of movies. He was known for his cheerful outlook.

He lived to age 51, which is about all that can be expected with a heart working that much overtime.

Today he would play for the Utah Jazz, and even as a middling player would command about $56 million over a career. More, if he was coordinated slightly above average.

The boots

Lace up shoes? Boots? High heeled, but still, never saw lace up cowboy boots.

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