7 Bizarre And Cruel Colonial Punishments

Share on twitter Tweet
Share on facebook Share

Trivial Diversions

7 Bizarre And Cruel Colonial Punishments

7 Bizarre And Cruel Colonial Punishments

Rough justice ruled the American colonies and punishment was both brutal and public – from the pillory to branding, from branks, stocks and ducking stools to riding the wooden horse. Communities doled out these punishments in the heart of town, as a warning and as a strange form of public spectacle.

#1 Pillory

Erected in the public square this was an all-purpose punishment option, dealing with treason, arson, blasphemy, theft, witchcraft, perjury, wife-beating, cheating, forgery, gaming, libel, conjuring, fortune-telling, and even the bizarre crimes of ‘delivering false dinner invitations’ and selling quack medical cures.

#2 Branding

In Maryland, branding with burning hot metal was common. The clear lettering system left onlookers in no doubt of the culprit’s crimes: SL – seditious libel, M – manslaughter, T -thief, R – rogue, F – forgery and B for burglary. Burglars had the letter B branded on their hand, but if the crime was committed on a Sunday it was branded onto their forehead.

#3 Stocks

Time in the stocks was earned by swearing, stealing, blasphemy, bigamy, brawling or trading with the natives. With head and hands fastened to a plank, convicts were pelted with rotten food by a baying crowd. Ironically, the first occupant of Boston’s stocks was the man who built them, carpenter Edward Palmer, convicted of overcharging for his services!

#4 Ducking Stool

This contraption offered spectators some variety by dunking convicts underwater. Occupants of the ducking stool ranged from: nagging women, bickering couples, brawlers, brewers of bad beer to bakers of bad bread. Simply being ‘poor’ or ‘unruly’ could also earn you an unwanted dip!

#5 Brank

This was a pretty shocking punishment for women who talked, nagged or gossiped – also called the “gossip’s bridle” this was an iron cage around the head which forced a piece of iron onto the tongue that would cut you if you spoke.

#6 Maiming

Cutting off the ears also smartly marked a wrong-doer to anyone who came into contact with them. In Virginia, a hog stealer was pilloried and also had his ears cropped.

#7 Riding The Wooden Horse

This punishment was reserved for soldiers for the crimes of rioting, drinking or even stealing chickens. A thin horizontal pole was erected some 12 feet high and the upper edge sharpened. Convicts were forced to ‘ride it’ for extremely painful hours or days at a time.

But sometimes just one punishment was not enough – in 1771 one poor soul convicted of counterfeiting received: an hour in the pillory, both ears cropped, was branded on both cheeks with an R and had to pay a $100 fine!

(From Curious Punishments of Bygone Days, by Alice Morse Earl (1896), now a free Public Domain Book.)

Related topics Colonial
Next post Previous post

Your reaction to this post?

  • LOL

    104

  • Money

    101

  • Cool

    46

  • Fail

    102

  • Cry

    22

  • Geek

    46

  • Angry

    13

  • WTF

    27

  • Crazy

    107

  • Love

    13

You may also like

7506 Views
19 Best Words of Wisdom From ‘Chronicles of Narnia’
Books

19 Best Words of Wisdom From ‘Chronicles of Narnia’

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the first

3599 Views
17 Hoaxes of the 21st Century That Fooled The Internet
History

17 Hoaxes of the 21st Century That Fooled The Internet

Even the most clever of us fall for hoaxes, which

4193 Views
6 Human Lives Saved by iPhones
History

6 Human Lives Saved by iPhones

iPhones do more than make people seem busy, now they