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 James D. “Big” Porter

James D. “Big” Porter

Birth
Portsmouth, Scioto County, Ohio, USA
Death 26 Apr 1859 (aged 47)
Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Burial Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Plot Section F, Lot 439
Memorial ID 7964 · View Source
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Folk Figure. As a child, Jim was very small and sickly. He became a jockey at the age of fourteen at Elm Tree Garden, a racetrack on Shippingport. At the age of seventeen he started to grow, and he grew for three years until he reached 7 feet 8 inches. Locals would take bets on how much he would grow in a week and every Saturday night Jim would allow himself to be weighed and measured. Around 1830 "Big" was added to his name and he became known as "Big" Jim Porter "The Kentucky Giant." Jim worked as a hackney or coach driver carrying passengers and goods from Louisville to the Portland Wharf. In 1836 Jim toured for one year with midgets performing Gulliver's Travels. In April, 1842 Charles Dickens stayed briefly in Louisville. He visited Jim and wrote in his book "American Notes"- ‘When he had shown himself and talked awhile, he withdrew his pocket instrument and went bobbing down the cabin, among men of six feet high and upwards, like a lighthouse walking along lamp-post." P.T. Barnum contacted Jim after reading what Charles Dickens had written and asked him to join his famous circus. Jim turned down the offer. Instead he opened a tavern near the Portland Canal in 1836. He prospered early and was able to build an eighteen room house which had ten foot high doors and furniture made to suit his large build. A manufacturer of Springfield Mass. Presented him with an eight foot rifle and a five foot sword. He nicknamed his rifle "The Little Rifle." He also had a four and a half foot cane made that resembled a spiral bedpost. He enjoyed very much showing these items to children and visitors. And his hand from his middle finger to his wrist measured an amazing 13 inches. On April 24, 1859 James D. Porter died quietly in his sleep. It is believed his suffered from heart problems. Jim's enormous size caused a problem but, a special nine foot casket was made. The remains were placed in a vault in Cave Hill Cemetery. Visitors from all over would come to the cemetery just to look through the ornamental opening in the door to see Jim's huge casket beside an ordinary size to show the contrast. The vault was nestled into the hillside and fell into ruin. Many dilapidated hillside vaults in this section of the cemetery were torn down before 1900. There is a marker that simply states he was 7 feet, 8 Inches tall- an inch shorter than he claimed.

Bio by: Shock


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 7964
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James D. “Big” Porter (15 Dec 1811–26 Apr 1859), Find A Grave Memorial no. 7964, citing Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .