Today on Wetall discover the incredible story of the tallest couple of all time! The story will tell you who Martin Van Buren Bates and Anna Haining Bates were, where they came from, what they experienced in their life, and how tall they were.
Anna Haining Swan’s Early Life
Anna Haining Bates, born Anna Haining Swan (August 6, 1846 – August 5, 1888), was a Canadian from Mill Brook, New Annan (near present-day Tatamagouche), in Colchester County, Nova Scotia. She was known for her great height, which reportedly reached 7 feet 11 inches at the peak of her stature. Her parents are of average height and are Scottish immigrants.
At birth, Anna weighed about 18 pounds. Anna is the third of 13 children, all of average height. From birth, she grew very quickly. On her fourth birthday, she measured 4 feet 6 inches. On her 6th birthday, she was measured again and stood at 5 feet 2 inches, just an inch shorter than her mother. On her 10th birthday, she measured 6 feet 1 inch. By her 15th birthday, Anna Swan stood just over 7 feet. She would reach her final height three years later, at 7 feet 11 inches.
Anna excelled in literature and music and was considered very intelligent. She also excelled in her studies of theater, piano, and singing. She played the role of Lady Macbeth in a play.
She had to be rescued from a fire at the Barnum museum in July 1865. The stairs were in flames but she was too large to escape through a window. In her fear, she knocked over the men sent to help her. The museum employees found a nearby derrick, broke the wall around a third-floor window, and lowered Anna using a pulley and hoist, with 18 men holding the end of the rope. At that time, Anna weighed 395 lbs. Usually, her weight was around 350 lbs.
As part of her shows, Anna had a tape measure put around her waist, then a lady from the audience put it around her own waist. The ribbon went three times around the waist of an average woman. In 1869, while she was touring in Great Britain, a journalist described Anna as being “taller than all men when she is standing, and most women when she is sitting. She has an oval face, speaks softly, and has a soft voice”.
Martin Van Buren Bates’ Early Life
Martin Van Buren Bates (November 9, 1837 – January 7, 1919), nicknamed among other things “the giant of Kentucky,” was an American from the Civil War era, known for his incredibly large size.
Although he was born of normal size in a normal-sized family from Letcher County, Kentucky, he would one day measure 7 feet 11 inches. According to other reputable sources, he was 7 feet 11 inches tall and weighed 471 lbs. However, the Guinness Book of Records places him at a more realistic height of 7 feet 9 inches.
Accounts of his remarkable growth vary, but all sources agree that he began to grow dramatically at around the age of six or seven, and he was over 6 feet tall and weighed nearly 200 lbs at the age of twelve. This incredible growth supposedly amazed his parents so much that they forbade him from doing household chores, fearing that his body might be too fragile.
He first became a teacher, but when the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Confederate army as a private in the fifth Kentucky infantry regiment in September 1861, quickly rising to the rank of captain. His ferocity in combat, aided by his imposing stature, made him legendary, with Union soldiers telling tales of a “Confederate giant who is as tall as five men and fights like fifty.” He was severely wounded in a battle around the Cumberland Gap region and was also captured, though he later escaped.
He returned to Kentucky after the war, but found it mired in violent feuds between those who had supported the Union and those who had supported the Confederacy, so he sold his property and left, explaining: “I have seen enough bloodshed, I wanted no more.” He went to Cincinnati, and joined the circus there, exhibiting his enormous stature to the curious. It was then that he met his soulmate…
The Meeting of the Giants
During Anna’s visit to a circus in Halifax with which Martin Van Buren Bates was traveling, Anna was spotted by the promoter and hired on the spot. The giant couple caused a sensation during the tours and eventually fell in love. They were married on June 17, 1871, at St Martin-in-the-fields in London. Reverend Rupert Cochrane, a friend of Anna’s family who was preaching in London at the time, agreed to lead the ceremony. Despite his stature of 6 feet 3 inches, the reverend seemed small next to the giant bride and groom.
The wedding, which took place at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, received a lot of publicity and thousands of people, drawn both by the novelty of the spectacle and the couple’s disarmingly good nature, tried to attend. Queen Victoria herself gifted them two very large gold watches studded with diamonds as a wedding gift.
They had two children, the first being a stillborn girl on May 19, 1872. The daughter was the same size as her mother at her own birth. The Bates family settled in Seville, Ohio, in June 1874, upon their return from the UK. They bought 120 acres of land and had furniture made to their dimensions. Martin supervised the construction of the house. The main part of the dwelling had 14-foot-high ceilings, while the doors were very wide and measured 8 feet 2 inches high. The back part of the house was built average-sized for the servants and guests.
During a trip in the summer of 1878, Anna discovered that she was pregnant for the second time. She gave birth on January 15, 1879. She was in the early stages of labor for 36 hours, then labor began. Dr. Beach, their doctor, realized that the birth was not proceeding normally and tried to use forceps, but the baby’s head was too big. He called another doctor who also tried to use forceps. They put a strong bandage around the baby’s neck to facilitate the birth. The baby was born on January 19, but only survived for 11 hours. This was the largest newborn ever recorded, at 23.8 pounds, and 28 inches tall, with each of his feet measuring 6 inches.
To forget the death of their baby, the Bates resumed touring with W.W. Cole in the summer of 1879, and then in the spring of 1880, but this was their last tour and they retired afterwards.
The final years of Anna’s life were spent quietly on the farm she and her husband owned, mostly away from the limelight. She had joined the local Baptist church in 1877 and attended services, with her husband, on Sundays. The bench on which they sat had to be enlarged and modified so they could sit comfortably. Anna sometimes taught Sunday school there.
Anna Bates died suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep, at her home, on August 5, 1888, a day before her 42nd birthday. She succumbed to heart failure after struggling with a thyroid goiter for some time.
After his wife’s death, Captain Bates ordered a coffin from Cleveland, Ohio. A standard-sized coffin was sent because they thought the cable was a mistake. Furious at this error, he contacted them again to tell them that his first coffin was of standard size. Martin also ordered a statue from Europe for her grave, sold the oversized house, and moved into town.
In 1897, he remarried, this time to a woman of average size, and led a quiet and uneventful life until his death in 1919 from nephritis. Anna, Martin, and their children are buried at Mound Hill Cemetery in Seville, Ohio. Nearby is Maggie, Anna’s sister, who died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1875 at the age of 22.
In conclusion, Anna and Martin Van Buren Bates were an extraordinary couple. Despite their extraordinary size, they lived normal lives, loving and respecting others. They faced many challenges, but always showed great strength and determination. Their story is an example of how people can overcome difficulties and live full and meaningful lives.