World's Tallest Salesman Exhibit
Rugby, North Dakota
In the main building of the Pioneer Village and Museum is a wall display on the life of Cliff Thompson, "the tallest salesman in the world" -- also billed as "the world's tallest Norwegian schoolteacher."
Born in Silva in 1904, to normal-size parents, he grew to a height of 8 feet, 7 inches. He only lived in North Dakota until he was seven, when his family moved to Wisconsin. He received a degree in teaching, "which he never was able to take advantage of because of his height." He then worked in Hollywood as a freak under the name "Count Olaf" and hired himself out as a freak advertising spokesman. Several of his old print ads are displayed: "The world's largest dairy farmer buys a Clean Eezee portable milker;" "The world's tallest man gets his shoes in the world's largest shoe store."
Cliff saved his money, went back to college, received a degree in law from Marquette, married a Chicago nightclub dancer who stood only 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and moved to Portland where he practiced law until he died in 1955 of gallstones and cancer.
The museum exhibits an outline of Cliff's foot, size 22, but it's stapled to the wall and thus is useless as a comparative device. In a back corner of the village, in the two-story schoolhouse, is a life-size dummy of Cliff, dressed in one of his suits. It's in the schoolhouse because it's the only building at Pioneer Village with a ceiling high enough to accommodate it.
Why was Cliff so tall? The Pioneer Village curator shrugged at the question. "That's what happens when you feed a Norwegian boy enough."