Who Invented the "Tar and Feathers" Procedure?

What fun-loving party animal first thought of “tarring and feathing” someone, and who was the first Honoree? Why feathers?
Since, I expect, this was a long time ago, were solvents (turpentine?) available to remove the tar, or was this pretty much a death sentence?


Some unsung rural sadist.

Send him a letter & ask.

Address it to:

3rd Sulfer Pit Row,

He’ll get it.

Quoting Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 15th edition:

Death sentence? With boiling pitch, highly likely.

If it wasn’t a death sentance, what did the convicted usually do after tarred and feathered to get back to ‘normal’?

It does seem to be taken lightly today as sort of a hazing type punishment.

And probably incorrectly so. It was most likely a very cruel death sentence.

That’s why I was wondering about the availability of solvent. Or at least some Mr. Bubble…

I´ve read somewhere that this particular system was envisioned by two French gentlemen, Doctor Tarr and professor Fether.

Perhaps the feathers were to prevent the victim from sticking himself to one of his antagonists.


That doesn’t sound like a death sentence, to me. When a guy dies on ship (by execution or other means), you don’t wait until you touch shore to dispose of the body.

And assuming that the victim survives, anything’ll come off eventually.

Seems a lot of trouble to go through if you’re aiming to kill someone. So I don’t expect it was fatal. My guess would be that the point is that it does take a while to get off, and is highly visible in the meantime (as well as hurting like a sumbitch during both the application and removal, which is part of the point, too)

“Hey, what’s with all the feathers? Art thou a thief?”
“Me, a knavish thief? Nay! What, the uh, feathers?.. Well, uh, that’s a funny story actually…”
“Never thee mind. I’ll find someone else to watch my horse.”