Mrs. A.H. Bates, Born August 6th, 1848. Height 7 feet 11 1/2 inches. Weight 413 Pounds. Capt. M. V. Bates, Born November 9th, 1845. Height 7 feet 11 1/2 inches. Weight 478 Pounds. The man on the right is Charles Eisenmann, the photographer.
Martin Van Buren Bates (November 9, 1837 – January 19, 1919), known as the “Kentucky Giant” was an American man famed for his great height. He was 7 ft 11 in. tall and weighed 475 lbs.
He began a big growth spurt at some time around the age of six or seven, and was over 6 ft. tall and weighed over 200 lbs. by the time he was twelve years old.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Bates joined the 5th Kentucky Infantry Confederate States Army, as a private, in 1861. His ferocity in battle and imposing figure saw him quickly promoted to the rank of captain. Bates was severely wounded in a battle around the Cumberland Gap area and captured and imprisoned at Camp Chase in Ohio, although he later escaped.
He returned to Kentucky after the war. Before the war, his first occupation was as a schoolteacher. While the circus was on tour in Halifax, Canada, the 7-foot-11-inch-tall Anna Haining Swan visited. She and Martin soon got to know each other, and were married in 1871. The highly publicized wedding, at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, England, drew thousands of people to try to attend, due to both the uncommonness of the spectacle and the disarming good nature of the pair. Queen Victoria herself gave them two extra-large diamond-studded gold watches as wedding presents.
Martin and Anna moved to Ohio in 1872, settling in Seville. On 19 May 1872, Anna gave birth to a daughter, who weighed 18 lbs.and died at birth. The couple built a large house to accommodate themselves comfortably. He explains the next few years in his autobiography:
While in Ohio, I purchased a farm in Seville, Medina County. It consisted of 130 acres of good land. I built a house upon it designed especially for our comfort. The furniture was all built to order and to see our guests make use of it recalls most forcibly the good Dean Swift’s traveler in the land of Brobdingnag.
I had determined to become a farmer, so I stocked my farm with the best breeds of cattle, most of them being short horns. My draught horses are of the Norman breed.
My rest was not to last long, for the solicitations of managers, I consented to again travel. The seasons of 1878, 1879 and 1880 found us leading attractions of the W. W. Cole circus.
While we have during these years been blessed with many things, affliction again visited us in the loss of a boy, born on the 15th day of January, 1879. He was 28 inches tall and weighed twenty-three pounds and was perfect in every respect.
Anna Bates died on August 5, 1888. Martin ordered a statue of her from Europe for her grave, sold the oversized house, and moved into the town. In 1889 he remarried, this time to a woman of normal stature, Annette LaVonne Weatherby and lived a mostly peaceful life until his death in 1919 of nephritis.