~Flagpole Sitting~ The Roaring 20's

By McCoy Leigh

Flag Pole Sitting

A very interesting fad in the 1920's started in New Jersey when "Shipwreck" Kelly sat upon a pole at a movie theater to attract publicity. After that, many other impersonators began to follow in Kelly's footsteps. In 1929, Kelly sat upon a a flagpole for a total of 145 days. All at once, in Baltimore, 3 girls and 17 boys sat upon 18 foot poles. When people would sit upon the poles they would have friends, family, and people they don't even know, cheering them on. At first, when the fad was becoming popular, there were multiple flag pole sitting records broken consecutive records. One man sat for 12 days, another for 17, and they sat for a whopping 21 days. Kelly had then set the record at 49 days and his record lasted only a year, until it was beaten by Bill Penfield. The new record was 51 days and 20 hours. That record lasted until Peggy Townsend sat upon a pole for 217 days. This record was not broken until 1984 when David Werder sat upon a flag pole to protest gas prices. He sat for 439 days. The flag pole sitting fad finally faded in the 1930's.

¨Shipwreck¨ Kelly himself

¨Shipwreck¨ Kelly's birth name was Alvin Kelly. Kelly was an employed professional stuntman in Hollywood. How Kelly got his nickname, "Shipwreck", no one knows. There are a few ideas though. Kelly's wife told reporters that he had acquired his nickname when he survived the 1912 RS Titanic sicking. It is also said that Kelly could have acquired the nickname because when he was a boxer he would float around on stage as a sailor would on a boat.
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~Flagpole Sitting Necessities~

Food was brought up to people when they were sitting upon a flagpole and in some cases they would be fed to by assistants and family. When they needed something, like new clothes or a rain coat they would have those brought up either in a basket or on a rope. If they had to relieve themselves they would go to the bathroom into a tube or pipe leading to the ground below.