To get a real account, you’d probably have to ask John Meints – one of the last high-profile tar and feathering victims, who was given the treatment back in 1918 for not supporting war bond drives (if that’s what got you tarred-and-feathered 100 years ago, I can only imagine what Meints’ assailants would think of the state of ”war bond drives” today). But as one can imagine, the practice is probably both painful and embarrassing – exactly what it’s designed for.
Tarring and feathering as a wide method of punishment dates all the way back to the twelfth century in England. Not surprising, right? Leave it to the British to decide that unwelcome feathers constitute a strict form of punishment. If you think Meints’ war bond drive vigilantism seemed like small potatoes, back then you could get the nasty treatment for something as small as stealing a loaf of bread to feed your sister’s child, who was close to death. Crazy, right? Silly though it may seem, the truth is that hot tar and sticky feathers prove a painful combination. Depending on the type of tar and its temperature, victims can suffer third-degree burns, and some have even died from this unlikely form of torture. Imagine trying to get scalding asphalt off your skin, and then imagine having to pick a bunch of bird feathers off along with it. Actually, it seems like tar alone would be punishment enough. Let’s assume the feathers are just for embarrassment. Because, again, the British certainly seem like they enjoy a good feather joke. Right? Right.