An 1855 drawing of Sylvia Hardy, the famed “Maine Giantess”, standing next to two average sized men. The American Phrenological Journal

WILTON — The Wilton Historical Society will be hosting a presentation on Thursday, Aug. 10, to celebrate the two-hundredth birthday of Sylvia Hardy.

Hardy’s notoriety stems from her large stature, earning herself the title, “the Maine Giantess”.

Precise measurements of Hardy’s actual size is subject to speculation, as varying sources have given different measurements of the woman over the years.

Touted for being over eight feet tall at one point, her height varied from year to year with various newspapers reporting her height range from 6’8″ to 7’10”.

Regardless, Hardy made a significant impression wherever she went and that eventually led her to showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, one half of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Hardy was born Aug. 17 in 1824 to John and Jane Hardy. The pair bore seven children with Hardy being the twin sister to brother Samuel Hardy, who tragically passed away four months later.


By many accounts, Hardy was an active child of traditional size and stature with no indication of the impending size she would grow to showing up in early life. In fact, some said she was small for her age. Her father passed when she was seven years old, and her mother eventually remarried. By the age of 12, things for Hardy started to change and quickly.

A statue of Sylvia Hardy, the Maine Giantess, located at the Wilton Farm and Home Museum. Submitted Photo

At the age of 12, Hardy began to experience a growth spurt so spectacular, that by the age of 19 she had already reached over 7 feet tall. Hardy continued to grow until she was 40 years old, where she capped out at 7’10” tall and weighed 400 pounds.

According to the New England Historical Society, Hardy was described as a “quiet young woman who enjoyed time alone in the woods. She worked as household help for several families in Wilton. Her neighbors recalled her as honest and open, but not an attention seeker.”

However, that changed when she entered her 30s and exited Wilton to venture out into the rest of the world. It was here where she met P. T. Barnum and in the spring of 1855, joined him in New York City as a part of his museum. Purchased in 1841, the Scudder’s American Museum, located on Broadway in Manhattan soon became Barnum’s American Museum.

By 1856, Hardy’s appeal at the museum began to wane and soon found herself traveling the country to visit nearly every American city and even traveling across the ocean to Cuba.

Hardy continued to travel and show off her large stature across the country until 1861. Hardy had returned home to Wilton by then, living off the money she had earned while working at Barnum’s American Museum and traveling the country. Hardy recounted the years with the circus as the happiest of her life.


Upon returned to Wilton, Hardy become a medium. Holding séances at her home on Depot Street, Hardy would speak with the dead through a form of Morse code with table knocking. Hardy lived to be 65, passing away in 1888 just one week after her birthday.

She was buried in a massive eight-foot-long casket that required 16 pallbearers to take her to Lakeview cemetery. Hardy is buried adjacent to her mother, who passed two weeks after her daughter.

For many years, Hardy’s grave marker only listed her name, age and years lived. However, in 1985, the Wilton Historical Society added a bronze plaque to note Hardy’s claim to fame.

The historical society will cover these details and more on Thursday, Aug. 10. The presentation will be at 6:30 p.m. and will take place at the Wilton Farm and Home Museum located at 10 Canal Street. For more information,  visit their website at

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