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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Upper Hand: 1919

The Upper Hand: 1919

1919. "Ralph E. Madsen, the tall cowboy, shaking hands with Senator Morris Sheppard at Capitol." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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No pony for him

His horse must've been a helluva animal.

Tall Tex

That should be Ralph MADESEN, aka Texas Madesen, aka Sky High Madesen. Here is a link to his single IMDB credit:

["Madsen" seems to be the preferred IMDB spelling. See link below. - Dave]


Nothing has changed.

It appears that even back in 1919 politicians were looking for any opportunity for a photo op.

And, Hence,

the Texas expression: A long drink of water.

Bygone Comics

This photo made me think of an oldtime (and possibly politically incorrect) comic of my youth titled "Mutt and Jeff," about two close friends, one of whom was exceedingly tall and the other exceedingly small and their zany antics. And then came to mind the nursery rhyme about "Fat and Skinny" who had a race, all around my pillow case, Fat fell down and broke his face and Skinny won the race." Harmless nonsense in the old days, forbidden and offensive today?

Quite the short life

Ralph Madsen, born in Norfolk, Nebraska, died in 1948 at the young age of 51. He was billed in circus side shows as the world's tallest man and had a couple of nicknames: Sky High Madsen and High Bill Madsen.


Washington Post, Aug 13, 1919

Texas Giant in Washington

R.E. Madsen, 7 feet 7 inches,
Counter Attraction to Marines.

R.E. Madsen, of Ranger Texas, came to Washington yesterday to see the Marines parade. He tried to join the Leathernecks once and the recruiting officer looked at his 7 feet 7 inches of perpendicularity and said he was too good a target. So he thought he would anyway get first hand information on how ferocious a brigade or two of Marines look, by coming to Washington.

In front of the White House a woman fainted during the parade. Madsen picked her up and took her out of the crowd. When she regained consciousness she looked at the tall cowpuncher and fainted again.

Madsen is perhaps the tallest man in the world and is still growing. He is only 22 years old and was a cowpuncher in Ranger country. Since the discover of oil there has not been much punching to do, so Madsen decided to come east with his friend, Sam Houston, of Amarillo, Texas, and see the sights.

No bigger than a minute

Morris Sheppard, the senior senator from Texas, was in office from 1913 until his death in 1941. An ardent Prohibitionist, he was one of the authors of the Volstead Act, and remembered for his conviction that "there is as much chance of repealing the eighteenth amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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