Flagpole Sitting: Planking of the 1920s

Planking. No, it doesn’t mean walking off the wooden board of Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger into alligator-infested seas. It means finding the most unusual of places to lie down – face down, with body straight and stiff as a plank – while your friends capture photographic evidence (which all will later upload to Facebook, Instagram, etc. and geek over). We think we’re so hip with our planking (or owling or pillaring or teapotting) photographs, but senseless (enjoyable, nonetheless) full-body antics are not new to us, and in fact, those of previous generations found ways to profit from their transitory trends.

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons user Cramyourspam

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons user Cramyourspam

You’ve been beasted by preteens. In the 1920s, 12-year-olds (and below) were braver than the modern plank-er. Their decade fad was flagpole sitting, begun by the actor Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly in 1924, who sat atop a theater for more than 13 days in promotion of an upcoming film release. (A plainer version of flash mob gimmicks?) The sport of climbing up flagpoles and sitting on a small platform for hours and days spread even more quickly among youth in Baltimore after teenagers Avon Foreman and Jimmy Jones each sat for over 250 hours.

A sport of glory and fortune. Dozens of young preteens and teenagers joined the craze and perched atop flagpoles, trying to beat previous records, earning recognition from public figures and national news outlets like The Literary Digest, and even raising money from admiring passersby. Records eventually surpassed 20 days of sitting, and many praised these flagpole sportsmen and women for their “endurance, grit, and stamina.” Flagpole sitters got glory and fortune, neither of which can be said for us plank-ers.

Photo credit: The Literary Digest

Photo credit: The Literary Digest

Do not despair, dear plankers. Every time you plank, savor the rush of a trend characteristic of our day and time. Upload those plank pictures with all the eagerness they are due. Though you cannot be rich and famous, you can still be happy.

Learn more! Trends in each decade – Mortaljourney.com. Best planking pictures – Geekosystem.

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