William Howard Taft: His Physicality

Although Taft was a 320-pound middle-aged man, his physical strength repeatedly surprised others. SEE BELOW For example, while visiting Yosemite National Park in October 1909, Taft and John Muir walked the four mile, 3242-foot descent from Glacier Point down to the floor of the Yosemite Valley. They quickly outdistanced the rest of the party, many of whom rode horseback. (The horse provided for Taft had appeared unequal to the President's bulk, so Taft was advised to walk.) Taft wrote: "While I am tired from the open air exercise, I feel greatly the better for it." 1a 2a

Taft was drenched with perspiration when he reached the Valley floor. His luggage was hours away, and there was no one within a hundred pounds of being able to lend him their clothes. "So while his clothes dried, the President went to bed and the affairs of State languished!" 1a.

Ten years after Taft died, his brother vividly described Taft's physicality 3a:
Will was not an athlete, but was a man of extraordinary physical strength, and there were few, if any, men in college who could hold their own against him in wrestling.


[On vacation] in the summer of 1895 Will was almost thirty-eight years old and weighed two hundred and eighty pounds. He played eighteen holes on a very hilly golf course in the morning, came home, ate his lunch, read his mail, and then went down to a tennis court, where he played a rather elephantine game, keeping at it until he was summoned to go for a picnic on the river. He insisted on rowing both ways, while the rest of us were content to row only one way, and, while the ladies were preparing supper, he stood on the bank batting stones into the river with a stick in pure physical exuberance. I submit that that is not the picture of a man who feels his weight as a great burden. I called at his [vacation house] one night and found Howard Hollister, a dear friend of his, who was making a visit. Hol was lying on the sofa, and when I asked him what he was going to do the next day he said "The Lord knows. I doubt whether I shall live till tomorrow. I have been following Bill around today."


One morning in a [golf] tournament he beat his opponent and found that he must play eighteen holes more in the afternoon. It alarmed me, but he made light of it and beat his opponent on the twentieth hole. Thirty-eight holes on such a [hilly] course in one day for a man weighing two hundred and sixty pounds and nearly seventy years old would indicate that there was some vitality left.

Cited Sources
  1. Sargent, Shirley. Yosemite's Famous Guests. Yosemite, CA: Flying Spur Press, 1970.
    a  pp.20-21
  2. Taft, William Howard. Papers of William Howard Taft. On file in the Library of Congress and selected other research libraries.
    a  WHT to Helen Herron Taft, Oct. 10, 1909
  3. Taft, Horace Dutton. Memories and Opinions. New York: Macmillan, 1947.
    a  pp.107-108

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