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Tar and Feathers


TAR AND FEATHERS. Although it had long been a legal punishment in England, pouring molten tar over an offender's body and covering it with feathers was part of extralegal demonstrations in the American colonies and the United States. Perpetrators often directed this punishment against those who violated local mores—for example, loyalists during the revolutionary era, abolitionists in the antebellum South, and others judged immoral or scandalous by their communities. During the colonial period, the women of Marblehead, Massachusetts, tarred and feathered Skipper Floyd Ireson because he refused to aid seamen in distress. During the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania (1794), backcountry insurgents tarred and feathered at least twenty government agents. The practice finally vanished in the late nineteenth century.


Friedman, Lawrence. Crime and Punishment in American History. New York: Basic Books, 1993.

Alvin F.Harlow/s. b.

See alsoCrime ; Punishment .

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