His name was Alvin Kelly but he was best known as “Shipwreck” Kelly.
Employed as a professional stuntman in Hollywood, Kelly decided to attempt to sit on a flagpole in response to a dare from a Hollywood friend. He sat upon the pole for 13 hours and 13 minutes and began a national spectacle.
Kelly’s stunt occurred in 1924 and within weeks hundreds of people were trying to call themselves the “King of the Pole.” One man sat for 12 days, another for 17 and another for 21 days. Public fascination was phenomenal as huge crowds would gather to watch the participant. With such a large audience, the publicity-hungry Kelly decided that he must once again be King. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, Kelly sat atop a flagpole for a record 49 days in front of an audience of 20,000 admirers.
Flagpole sitting died out around 1929 with the coming of the Depression, but during its time, it certainly caught the nation’s fancy.