William Howard Taft: At 335 Pounds

severe obesity
"Not much can be said about Taft's health without saying a great deal about his size" 1a. Taft was 5 feet 11.5 inches tall 2. He weighed 243 pounds when he graduated from college 3a and, by all accounts, carried it well. By age 48, when he had been Secretary of War for two years, he weighed 320 pounds 3b. Under the guidance of English physician Dr. N. E. Yorke-Davies, he lost 70 pounds over the next year and a half 3b. But two years after that, he was once again over 300 pounds MORE. He weighed 335-340 pounds when he left the White House [see photo SEE BELOW ]. He then lost weight rapidly, dropping to 270 in a year and a half. The summer before he died, he weighed 244 pounds, just one pound more than his college weight. Details and graphs are available on the Apneos web site and in reference 4.

Taft was big almost from birth. It's clear, however, that he had an enormous appetite. MORE

Taft's size impressed some people, but often made him the butt of jokes MORE. Note: Judged solely by body mass index, a 5-foot 11-inch person weighing more than 290 pounds is severely obese.

Be careful. The web has much information about Taft's body size, a great deal of it stemming from an unfortunate error-filled article in a medical journal in 2013 5 that Dr. Zebra took pains to refute 6. Taft was not 6-feet 2-inches tall and there is no record he ever weighed more than 340 pounts.

The photograph below shows Taft at his peak weight: 335-340 pounds.


The photo is held by the Library of Congress and is available on their web site in glorious 10MB resolution. Their title for the photo is: "President-elect Wilson and President Taft standing side by side, laughing, at the White House, prior to Wilson's inauguration ceremonies, March 4, 1913." Wilson had not yet taken the oath of office, so he was still the President-elect.

(The photographer snapped the picture just after Wilson had made a comment about a young woman nearby.)

Cited Sources
  1. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.
    a  p.167

    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.

  2. Hicks, F. C. William Howard Taft, Yale Professor of Law & New Haven Citizen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1945.
  3. Pringle, Henry F. The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1939.
    a  p.1072  b  p.287
  4. Sotos, JG. Taft and Pickwick: sleep apnea in the White House. Chest. 2003;124:1133-1142.
  5. Levine, DI. Corpulence and correspondence: President William H. Taft and the medical management of obesity. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013; 159: 565-570.

    Comment: This error-filled article should be ignored.

  6. Sotos, JG. Corpulence and correspondence. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014; 160: 580.

    Comment: Refutes the unfortunate Levine article.

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