Friday, August 8, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Public Humiliation

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a mug shot of a poor ol’ soul holding a slate on which is written his name and crime. 

While crime and punishment is seldom a laughing matter, posing as if having committed a crime is.  A favorite photo spot in Colonial Williamsburg is the stocks and pillory. 

 
Barry Mathias Williamsburg, VA Dec 1971
Barry in the stocks at Williamsburg
a VERY warm December 1971
And it really is funny to see adults and children lining up to put their feet in the stocks or their head and hands in the pillory for the sake of a holiday memory.

That’s what tourists do.

But in colonial times, public humiliation was a popular form of punishment, particularly for witchcraft, arson, wife-beating, treason, blasphemy, and drunkenness.  Local citizens would gather to laugh at or even spit on the most recent town criminal.  Sometimes they threw food, rocks, and disgusting things. 




Barry Mathias in the pillory Williamsburg Dec 1971
Barry in the pillory at Williamsburg
December 1971


Posing in the stocks and pillories is a fun diversion today, but in eighteenth century Williamsburg, a person could die from heat exhaustion or starvation in the summer or freeze to death in the winter. 
















If there’s a jail cell on the tour, you can bet there’s a tourist rattling the door. 

That's what tourists do.

Barry Mathias Eastern State Penitentiary Philadelphia 2009
Barry rattling a jail cell door
Eastern State Penitentiary Philadelphia March 2009

We visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia and saw Al Capone’s cell.  Since he was a “celebrity,” he spent his time there in luxury even providing his own furniture:  an oriental rug, a fine desk and table, a comfortable chair, some lamps, and a cabinet radio. 

Al Capone's cell Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia
Al Capone's cell
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA

That’s a far cry from the pillory. 


For more mug shots and criminals, visit Sepia Saturday.  I would not lure you there under false pretenses.

36 comments:

  1. You sure have a lot of pictures of Barry locked up! hahaha!

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    1. Sometimes I wish I had a few more. HA HA HA

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  2. Seriously, people think prisoners are mistreated today!
    Great photos :)

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    1. Right - prisoners are not likely to starve or freeze today.

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  3. Those convicted of lesser crimes have it pretty soft these days: recreation rooms with comfortable chairs, sofas, & TV; exercise yards with game facilities; 3 decent meals a day; health care; clean clothing; a library; learning opportunities; & so forth. Perhaps not quite as comfortable as Al Capone's cell (them who has, gets!), but not so bad either. At least they have to work for these privileges We are, of course, expected to believe all of the above will insure a better person leaving prison when they have served their time. Perhaps so in some cases, but many go right back to old patterns.

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    1. It is a very "hopeful" system yet very discouraging when ex-cons go back to their life of crime.

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  4. We've done similar photo shoots in former Gaols in Australia without much serious thought about the lives of the previous inmates. Very hard to tread the middle road between the harsh conditions in past Gaols and the modern facilities on offer today. or should I say Jail?

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    1. Williamsburg does a great job of recreating 18th century life, especially what it might have been like on any given day during the time of the Revolution, but I have never seen them do anything involving the stocks and pillory.

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  5. I have a picture of my parents in the pillory at Williamsburg (and I think I used it fro Sepia Saturday). I never heard of any prisoners being allowed to provide their own furnishings before.

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    1. Al must have had a really good lawyer.

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  6. Barry seems to enjoy being incarcerated. I have a photo of my husband sitting in a cell in Alcatraz. Must be a guy thing. :) Great interpretation of the prompt.

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    1. I think it IS a guy thing, you're right.

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  7. I know they are tourist traps but that is going a bit too far!

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    1. Oh darn -- I should have thought of "Tourist Traps" for a title. I'm slipping.

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    2. Mike's comment made me laugh out loud! Fun post. ☺

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  8. It sure is, but what a fun post it made! I have to laugh (although knowing in the real day it wasn't funny) when I'm at the Renaissance Festival and they have this, and reading all the crimes of those days!

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    1. I guess we laugh the same reason people of the past laughed -- a person looks foolish locked in the stocks and pillories.

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  9. I popped on a pair of shackles when I was down in Port Arthur last month. Not a nice feeling at all.

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    1. See -- it is a universal behavior to want to see what it's like to be a criminal, I guess.

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  10. Thanks for letting us see your trapped hubby...I've also got pics of relatives in similar circumstances. Having to stand or sit there for a few minutes sure doesn't give a good example of what a day or two might have been like. No bathroom breaks either!

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  11. Yes, they are fun to pose in now, and your husband looks quite happy to have been 'imprisoned', but they certainly would have been no laughing matter when in serious use. The whole system was totally barbaric,

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    1. "Barbaric" for sure -- it's one thing to put someone in the stocks and pillories for an hour, but long enough to die from starvation is hard to fathom. I don't know how citizens could watch that.

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  12. We put our son in the stocks once in a theme park. not only did he get out, but now he is a policeman - something must have struck home!

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    1. Hilarious. I wonder if Houdini's parents put him in the stocks.

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  13. How did Al Capone merit the special treatment in prison? It was so blatant. Funny to see your husband behind bars and pilloried. Watching somebody die of starvation? Absolutely horrible.

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    1. I'm sure the guide told us how Al rated, but I can't recall the story. He must have been a real novelty at the State Pen.

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  14. I live near Philadelphia and the Eastern State Penitentiary is one of my favorite places in the whole world. They really do an incredible job of preservation and I'm SO glad someone mentioned it!!

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    1. It was a fantastic tour. I really liked learning the difference between "jail" and "penitentiary" and how the way penitentiaries were built aided security.

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  15. Great idea and you're so right - sometimes our recreations of the past are very curious!

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    1. Maybe it's a sign that society has advanced.

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  16. This is a fun post, Wendy. I think the best part is seeing photos of your husband at two different ages. It's always so interesting to see how people's faces change in appearance over time.

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    1. Funny you should say that because I looked at those photos and wondered whether in years to come anyone would be able to put them together as being of the same person.

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