A man was attacked for having a beard in 1830, then imprisoned for defending himself. He died in 1873, by which time beards were fashionable. His tombstone reads, “Persecuted for wearing the beard.”

Joseph Palmer (communard)

For other people named Joseph Palmer, see Joseph Palmer (disambiguation).

Joseph Palmer, published in 1915

Joseph Palmer (1791–1873) was a member of the Fruitlands commune and an associate of Louisa May Alcott and other Transcendentalists.


A farmer from Notown, a village on the outskirts of Leominster, Massachusetts, Palmer was a veteran of the War of 1812. In 1830, Palmer was a successful Yankee farmer, but was by no means a typical one. Possibly influenced in childhood by a bearded itinerant evangelist named Lorenzo Dow, Palmer took to wearing a long beard in the 1820s. Few men in the United States wore beards after about 1820, and Palmer was considered eccentric and slovenly. Nicknamed “the old Jew”, he was regularly… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

12 thoughts on “A man was attacked for having a beard in 1830, then imprisoned for defending himself. He died in 1873, by which time beards were fashionable. His tombstone reads, “Persecuted for wearing the beard.””

  1. JustAManFromThePast

    He was an abolitionist and visited by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau. People mocked him by calling him the “Old Jew”. When visiting Boston in 1840 crowds on the street mocked him.

    When a minister told him to shave his beard and stop looking like the Devil he replied, “Mr. Trask, are you not mistaken in your comparison of personages? I have never seen a picture of the ruler of the sulfurous regions with much of a beard, but if I remember correctly, Jesus wore a beard not unlike mine.”

    He spent 15 months in prison, many months in solitary confinement, and was severely abused.

  2. LiabilityFree

    Throughout his imprisonment, Palmer insisted that he was innocent and that to pay a fine, even only $10, would equate to admitting his own guilt. Palmer’s case became something of an embarrassment to county authorities, who realized that his jail term was far exceeding his “crime”, and they sent several committees to the jail to convince him to leave. They offered to waive the $700 bond, if he would only pay the fine and court fees. Palmer told one of the committees, “If I aint [sic] a safe person to have my liberty I ought not to go out. And I am willing to stay in confinement til [sic] I am.” It was not until David Brigham, the judge who had originally fined Palmer, visited the Worcester prison and begged Palmer to relent. Brigham also carried a letter from Palmer’s mother, a woman well into her eighties, pleading with him to come home. On August 31, 1831, after more than fifteen months in prison, Palmer paid his fine and left the jail. Palmer publicized his case by writing letters from jail that were widely published after first appearing in the Worcester Spy. When he later visited Boston in 1840, crowds on the street mocked him.[1][2]

    Wow dude was hardcore about his beard.

  3. ImAOneTrackLover

    Of all the things to be persecuted for, why a beard? Poor guy.

  4. ItsHammyTime

    This is sadly not that uncommon in history. Throughout history there have been numerous counties that have banned or outlawed beards. Such a weird issue but has a long and stupid history.

  5. Yingthings

    Alas, it never paid to be ahead of your time, and that’s still true today.

  6. whitenobody

    > **imprisoned for defending himself**

    Good to see things haven’t changed in the last 190 years.

  7. televisedlobotomy

    reminds me of Peter The Great who banned any russian man from wearing a beard, sending barbers to peoples houses to ensure they cut off their bears

  8. Harvey_Ledbetter

    Don’t be afeard, it’s just a beard.

  9. sobit_damnit

    The original hipster, he had his beard before it was cool.

  10. cheesy_steeve

    What do you expect for having THE beard.

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