Iron Mask, Neck Collar, Leg Shackles, and Spurs, 18th cent.

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This record was last updated on 22 Feb 2017

Image Reference

Thomas Branagan, The Penitential Tyrant; or, slave trader reformed (New York, 1807), p. 271.

Bound into this abolitionist work, but consecutively paginated with the title poem, is a separate essay, "The Method of Procuring Slaves on the Coast of Africa; with an account of their sufferings on the voyage, and cruel treatment in the West Indies" (pp. 252-274). This essay is accompanied by a number of engravings including the one shown here, described (p. 270) as follows: "A front and profile view of an African's head, with the mouth-piece and necklace, the hooks round which are placed to prevent an escapee when pursued in the woods, and to hinder them from laying down the head to procure rest. At A [see letter over mouth of figure on the right] is a flat iron which goes into the mouth, and so effectually keeps down the tongue, that nothing can be swallowed, not even the saliva, a passage for which is made through holes in the mouth-plate." On the lower right is an enlarged view of this mouth piece which "when long worn, becomes so heated as frequently to bring off the skin along with it." The lower left shows leg shackles used on the slave ships; also, "spurs used on some plantations in Antigua" (placed on the legs to prevent slaves from absconding). Another illustration in the Penitential Tyrant, which does not appear to be present in all copies of this work (and is not shown on this website), shows a slave lashed to an upright ladder, which is leaning against a tree, while being whipped by another slave as the slavemaster looks on. The item shown here closely resembles a type of "Scold's bridle," or "Branks," an instrument of punishment occasionally used, particularly on women, in early England, Scotland, and Wales. See also, for example, image NW0191.