Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A Short Guy

One more thing about Jay Gould: he was short.   Certainly by the standards of our time and even by the standards of his own--he apparently charted in at just about exactly five feet (so that instructive biography I'm reading). Which puts him right up (heh)( there with his contemporary, Andrew Carnegie, whom I have always thought of as short--he also was five foot.

Which set me to wondering: were we really shorter in those days?  The usufruct of some desultory research is: well, yes and no.   Wiki has a chart of Presidents by height. Abraham Lincoln was, of course (tied with Lyndon Johnson) our tallest President, standing 6' 4".  The rest of the 19th Century lot count as what might think of as "average,"  though there are a few more in the 5'6", 5'7" range than later--at 5'6", Benjamin Harrison is shorter than any later president (and also more forgettable)?  Shortest  was James Madison at 5'5".

Maybe the Presidency is special because it is such an alpha-male role. Supreme Court justices are  bit more remarkable.   We can discount the girrls because they are, you know, girrls (though Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems to stand about 5'1" and Elena Kagan, perhaps just a tad more-Justice Thurgood Marshall, Kagan's old boss, called Kagan "shorty").   Anyway, they can't compete with  Alfred Moore, elevated to the court by John Adams: he was 4'5".

This being the 21st Century and the age of the internet and all that, wouldn't you know it didn't take me any time at all to come up with a "who's who of short people," running all the way down to Gul Mohammed who measured one foot (sic) 10.4 inches--though it appears he must give way to  Chandra Bahadur Dangi, said to  measure just 1'9".  

Moving away from these total outliers, it's interesting to note those who leap out because they don't actually seem all that short.  Who would have guessed, for example, that David Ben-Gurion was only five foot?   Or my favorite engineer?  Or Steven Douglas, the man who was not Lincoln in the 1860 Presidential race?  And is Steve Schwarzman, the Blackrock billionaire, really only 4'8"?

But one could just as well play the game the other way round.  I certainly wouldn't have expected, for example,  that this guy was a strapping 5'4",.

I end wit the canonical place-marker for any discussion of height in our time.

No comments: