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Patriotic Pole Sitter: 1929

Patriotic Pole Sitter: 1929

UPDATE: The Library of Congress has given this photo a caption.

September 3, 1929. "Maryland youth breaks pole sitting record. William Ruppert, 14-year-old youth of Colgate, Maryland, as he appeared atop the flagpole in the yard of his home yesterday after breaking the pole sitting record of 23 days set by Shipwreck Kelly. Young Ruppert, who started his sitting on August 1, has worn out three pairs of trousers so far. He says he expects to stay up 30 days more. The pole is 18 feet high." Note the light bulb rigged to the seat. View full size.


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Series string

It looks like a common (then) 8-lamp string for Christmas trees, the kind usually fitted with C6 type bulbs.

What about school?

The updated information states that William planned to stay up on the pole for another 30 days. Since this photo is updated to September 3rd, are we to assume young William has dropped out of school, in favor of a career choice that starts out "at the top" and stays there?

Back then we didn't have a Wii, we had to sit on poles

Every time I think we have stupid fads today, I just have to remind myself of pole-sitting. Although, substitute a tree for a pole, and I can name at least one fairly famous latter-day female sitter, Julia Butterfly Hill.

I count seven bulbs in series, but there might be one more hidden near the top. They could be 32-volt bulbs, widely used on farms before the REA, and in railroading.

King For A Day

According to an August 12, 1929 article in the Baltimore Sun, Jimmy Jones' record only stood for 6 hours before being shattered by Wee Willie Wentworth (12 years). The mayor made a house call to congratulate the latter on his ascension to the throne.

10 Days in August

He must have had good weather. Ten days in August in Baltimore without thunderstorms is a bit unusual. Certainly, if there had been a storm he would have been down in no time, if he were smart.

10 days up there

I guess they could send food up to him, but did he get to come down for bathroom breaks?

Steel Pier

The "art" of pole sitting continued well into the '50's. I remember, as I'm sure many others do, that during the summer months on the old Steel Pier in the OLD Atlantic City, a pole sitter was a prime attraction, along with the diving horse.

There used to be a bank of telephone handsets that allowed people on the ground to talk to the pole sitter, and ask him questions and what not. Food and drink was hoisted up in a basket contraption, and he ( I never remember a female pole sitter) was allowed a bathroom break every so many hours. At night, after the pier was closed to the public for the night, he was supposed to sleep up there for the night, but no one was ever around to verify that.


A few years back, there was an article in Reminisce magazine about this guy. It included a recent interview plus additional pictures.

Light bulb

Not to mention the series string of lamps leading up the pole! I make out five, with possibly a sixth one at the bottom. The rig on the seat is a 'Y' socket for two, with only one present. What kind of circuit IS that? Not enough for them to be 12V lamps in series across 120V; were 24V lamps common in 1929?

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