Flag pole sitting became popular briefly between 1924 and 1929. The whole thing started when a friend challenged Alvin Shipwreck Kelly to sit on a flagpole as a test of endurance.
Kelly lasted for thirteen hours and thirteen minutes. Kelly claimed that he was a Titanic survivor, hence the Shipwreck nickname.
Others tried to beat Kelly’s pole sitting record and did so. Other contestants sat for twelve, seventeen and twenty-one days. Since these people beat his record Shipwreck, in 1929 sat on a flag pole for 49 days.
In 1929 it appears seventeen boys and at least three girls tried it. In 1930 his record was broken by Bill Penfield in Strawberry Point, Iowa, who sat on a flagpole for 51 days and 20 hours until a thunderstorm made him decide to give it up.
The term pole sitter today refers to a show off. There is a song “Flag Sitter” by the Harvey Dander band. The lyrics are dark and depressing.
The pole sitting phenomena has its roots in the ancient practice of sitting on columns called Stylitism. The story is that Saint Simeon Stylites of Antioch, present day Turkey, sat on a column for thirty years.
Often a square of wood was adhered on the top of the pole making it a bit more comfortable for anyone who thinks sitting on a pole for days and weeks is a good idea. In the early 1980’s when gasoline prices skyrocketed H. Dand Werder claims he sat on a pole for 1,397 days, 11 hours and 6 minutes.
A Peter Spencer climbed to a small platform on a ten meter wind monitor tower and had a 52 day hunger strike. Peter was protesting changes in land clearing and water management regulation. Fortunately flag pole sitting is not so popular today.