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Jake Erlich “World’s Tallest Man” at the El Paso Buick Distributor

Today’s feature image taken in late-1928 at El Paso, Texas contains an attractive 1929 Buick series 121 model 64 roadster with all new styling. The automobile is parked in front of the El Paso Buick distributor and sales agency with Jake Erlich, the “World’s Tallest Man,” accompanied by two female models; he may have been a salesman at the distributorship at the time.

This roadster is a silver anniversary model with optional wire wheels based on a 121-inch wheelbase chassis. It is powered by a 309.6 c.i. o.h.v. inline six-cylinder engine producing 91 h.p. fitted with a mechanical fuel pump for the first time; it is backed up by a multiple disc clutch and a three-speed transmission.

  •                   1929 Buick o.h.v 309.6 c.i. six-cylinder engine – “Motor Age” November 1928.

Jake Erlich was a well-known silent screen actor in the mid-1920s who’s stage name was Jack Earle. Born in 1906 he and his family moved to El Paso, Texas from Los Angeles in 1913. He soon began to suffer from the disorder acromegalic gigantism and grew to a height of eight foot six and a half inches and gained the title “World’s Tallest Man.”

Erlich landed acting parts in a number of movies including the films “Hansel and Gretel” in 1923, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” in 1924. He traveled with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and later became a salesman, he died at the age of forty-six in 1952.

Share with us what you find of interest in the expandable photograph below courtesy of the El Paso Public Library found via The Portal to Texas History.

16 responses to “Jake Erlich “World’s Tallest Man” at the El Paso Buick Distributor

  1. I read somewhere that the 1929 Buicks were the first Buicks to have an adjustable driver’s seat. I wonder if he was able to fit into one.

    • More likely, he would have fit after removing the drivers seat, and piloting from the rear seat. Knew a feller once…Bob was his name…

  2. Intriguing. Folks with this syndrome usually die relatively young. Big load on a heart to feed that ‘tower’. As for the nice looking Buick, I fail to understand what the spare tire lights actually do. They would seem to be blocked by the headlight to a certain extent and they are not adjustable spotlights. Just a fashion statement? Next, I like that OHV engine, especially in 1929 when everyone was running flatheads. But I wonder about that jackshaft (?) driven appendage that heads into the block. I can ‘t figure that out. It isn’t the fuel pump is it? Can’t see the ports either, so it must have been pretty crowded on the other side. Siamesed ports? Soon to be replaced by the Straight 8 I guess.

  3. It appears that there were actually two Buick businesses at this location which is 401-15 W. San Antonio St. in El Paso. The first was the Buick Motor Company El Paso Branch which seems to have been run by General Motors and was for wholesale sales only. You can see the “Wholesale” sign in the window of the building. The second Buick business was only at 415 W. San Antonio St. which was Watkins Motor Company. Both used the same telephone number, so it might be a very fine distinction. Watkins also sold Goodyear tires.

    The president of Watkins Motor Company was Roy “Sam” Watkins (1890-1951). By 1933 he was also selling Chevrolet cars and trucks. Watkins established his dealership about 1919, and he also sold Packard cars early on. It appears he continued to work here at least until 1947. After he died, the dealership retained his name for many years.

    The Durant dealership in the background, at 329 W. San Antonio St., was Del Norte Motors, Inc. run by F. Newman Payne. Additionally, the firm sold Locomobile cars and Rugby trucks.

  4. Wonder if this is the same Jake Erlich who defended drummer/bandleader GENE KRUPA in San Francisco on that infamous 1942 marijuana drug bust…?

    Alas, probably not.

  5. Maybe it’s just different points in time, but I had always heard that Robert Wadlow, of Alton, IL, holds the record as the world’s tallest man. Born in 1918, Wadlow reached a height of 8 ft 11.1 in by the time of his death in 1940.

  6. The ’29 Buick was known as the “pregnant” Buick, due to a bulge on the body just below the belt line. This wasn’t the fault of GM’s new Art and Colour Section lead by Harley Earl – production engineers at Fisher Body and their cost-conscious allies within GM decided to change the car’s shape to make it easier to produce.

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