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tarred and feathered

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  • J. L. Bell
    Richard Baldwin wrote:
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 29, 2000
      Richard Baldwin wrote:
      <<A freind of mine that does not do reenacting. Asked questions about tar
      and feathered. I know that whomever aided the enemy. Would be tared and
      feathered. How hot was this tar? Did people live through it? How did it
      come off? And why the feathers?>>

      Though the Tory judge Peter Oliver of Massachusetts wrote that the American
      Whigs invented tarring and feathering, it was actually an old British
      custom, reportedly enacted into law as a punishment in Richard the
      Lionheart's time. There was also a long tradition of using tar and feathers
      against social enemies in the colonies before the Revolutionary period.

      Seaport towns had a ready supply of tar because it was used in
      shipbuilding, to tar ropes, and to render clothing water-resistant. The
      sailors' nickname "Jack Tar" came from the habit of wearing tarred jackets
      and trousers.

      The feathers were probably added to make the person undergoing punishment
      look more ridiculous, as was stripping him or (in very rare cases) her
      naked first. There are some reports of teenage boys in revels wearing
      costumes that were tarred and feathered, perhaps to resemble the
      burry/furry boys of English May Day dances, so the feathers might have some
      symbolic meaning as well.

      I don't know how hot the tar was, but mobs seem to have used tar from
      buckets, not from vats warming over fires. The injuries from tarring and
      feathering that I've read about seem to have been due to beatings
      administered at the same time rather than the tar. Removing the coating was
      probably a matter of scrubbing and waiting.

      The punishment wasn't fatal, nor intended to be. One Boston mob simply
      carted around a Loyalist merchant, Patrick McMasters, with a bucket of tar
      because they perceived that he might not survive the physical ordeal. Other
      New England crowds tarred and feathered people over their clothing as a
      lesser punishment.

      J. L. Bell JnoLBell@...
    • johnsi@towers.com
      The opening pages of Kenneth Roberts most excellent book Oliver Wiswell include fairly detailed and horrific descriptions of both tarring and feathering and
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 29, 2000
        The opening pages of Kenneth Roberts' most excellent book "Oliver
        Wiswell" include fairly detailed and horrific descriptions of both
        tarring and feathering and riding on a rail. One might survive the
        former with some scars (the tar couldn't be painted on unless it was
        fairly hot and the feathers may have acted as an insulation to keep
        it from cooling too quickly) but often not the latter. I suppose the
        mob found it more amusing than a simple hanging.

        Your servant,
        Ian Johns
        Loyal American Regiment
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