04 May, 2012

Joseph Palmer

Joseph Palmer (1791–1874) was a member of the Fruitlands commune and an associate of Louisa May Alcott and other Transcendentalists. 
Few men in the territory that became the United States wore beards after about 1720. Palmer wore a full beard when he moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1830 and was abused for it and told he "should be prosecuted for wearing such a monstrosity." One day a minister refused him communion, so he took a drink of the communion wine himself. A few days later, a group of men seized him and tried to shave his beard. He cut two of them with a knife while preventing them from shaving him. He publicized his case by writing letters from jail that were widely published after first appearing in the Worcester Spy. He refused to leave when the authorities tried to release him and they ultimately had to evict him from the jail. When he later visited Boston in 1840, crowds on the street mocked him. 
Palmer died in 1875, by which time beards had become widely fashionable. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in North Leominster and his grave marker bears a portrait of him bearded with the inscription "Persecuted for Wearing the Beard" 

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