Louis “Big Louie” Moilanen
Louis Moilanen (also known as Lauri Moilanen and Louie Moilanen) came to the Keweenaw at the age of four in 1889, the son of Louis and Annie Moilanen. The family arrived from Finland and homesteaded just north of Hancock in the Salo district. Little Louie thrived in the new environment overlooking Lake Superior and at nine years old he was the height of an average man. Ten years later he was declared to be the tallest man in the world. Big Louie was seven foot nine inch tall, even though his parents were just five foot. When young Louie came to town in his horse drawn buck board it was quite a sight. Buying clothes was difficult, so the Ed Haas Men’s Store in Houghton tailored clothes for Louie and special ordered size 19 shoes and size nine Stetson hats. Louie lived not too far from the Boston mine where he got his first non-farming job as a timber man in the Franklin Junior. Setting and shimming large timbers with block and tackle in the small stopes and drifts was hard work, but fellow miners said he could do the work of two men. Louie’s size was a handicap and he soon found out that the mines were designed for five foot men.
Read on for more about Big Louie (including photos) and his career with Ringling Brothers, as a tavern owner in Hancock and as Justice of the Peace. There’s a little more information at Yooper Steez including Louie’s hometown of Boston, now a ghost town. The comments are especially great, with many memories of Louis and his family. While Louis Moilanen’s height was never verified, he would have ranked between 4th (at 8’4″) and 9th (at 8’4″) among the tallest people in the world. Curiously enough, the tallest person ever recorded, 8’11” tall Robert Wadlow of Alton Illinois, died in Michigan on July 15, 1940. The Daily Mining Gazette adds that:
Although exactly how tall Moilanen was is a matter of debate, with descriptions ranging from 8 feet, 1 inch to 8 feet, 4 inches, Richter said the death certificate he found in the Houghton County Court House indicates he was 8 feet, 1 inch at the time of his death on Sept. 16, 1913. The certificate lists his age as 27 years, 7 months and 12 days.
There’s also information about the Big Louie Monument Project. Donations can be sent to the Houghton County Historical Society P.O. Box 127 Lake Linden, MI 49945.