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The best of America or so it seems to us with the realisation that this nation is young yet. That America is man's greatest adventure. In time. And space. North Carolina American Adventure. A study of man in the New World. His values and his characteristics is what he believes what he lives by American Adventure is produced on a grand and from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the Educational Television and Radio Center directed by John Clayton. Today's program presents Irwin as Joe Palmer and a free man.
They called him that in 1830. The people of Massachusetts. Though he was not old and he was not a Jew. But he did wear a Jew's beard long and full and flowing. And the people of his community told him to shave it off. The people ordered him to shave but Joe Palma wouldn't do that. He said his face and his whiskers were his own and he was a free man. What a preposterous thing it is Palmer standing there at your own trial without massive. It is my own Your Honor and I kind of take it offered a trial and put it back on again. Well you'll tell this court why it is that you must wear a beard yes if you will first explain to me why it is a man who scraped his face with a razor every day of the year. Surely you know that there is not a minister around was not said from his pulpit that it is
a sin to error there. What do you say to that. Your honor if the good Lord wanted me to shave then surely I would have been born equipped with a razor. Mr. Obama you do admit the charges I admit nothing. You do admit that you attacked three men in the township of Fitchburg. No your honor. And with a pen knife did maliciously injure two of them. I cut them a little better a little and then they ran away and said you would beat it. I admit I cut them short on it but it was in self-defense. They set upon me with straps and razors and were intending to shave my face and so I protected myself and what again but it was not unprovoked assault on my part. Mr. Palma because holds that you are guilty but under the circumstances sets the fine law with only $10. Now please pay the fine and this courtroom dismissed. Your honor your honor.
Before I go may I ask what will happen if I refuse to pay you this fine jail until you change your mind then lock me up your honor I will pay no fine for defending what is mine. Down it will do no good to walk up and down the jail cell like a thing possessed. Perhaps it was foolish to defy the judge Nancy. But it agreed they didn't. I can hardly blame you dear for indeed the whole town knows that those three men set upon me that I did not provoke them I was coming out of the Fitchburg hotel having just delivered some meat for his restaurant and they started walking toward me with straps and razors and one carried a rope
which I suppose he intended to bind my hand oh let's not talk about that whole town knows it and I won't pay that fine. Be quiet you're getting excited. How much was the fine. $10 very little for a man with 10000 acres of land and more and a thousand dollars put away. You're making much over little Joseph my dear Nancy. It is not the money not the fun it will cost money for you to stay in jail because food must be brought to you. And it will be Dampier your health will be bad. I was thinking that perhaps it would be wise for you and Tommy to move into town and and rent a place near the jail. Leave the house leave it for a while and move close by then. Tommy could bring me food and bushels of corn for a fire. Joseph please I don't want to move ever since I married you I have lived in the large house and I have to move everything I know but but never mind it is more important that I do not pay this fine. A man must not bow to what is wrong. Now that's all
that we've said enough. Go home and get your things you're one time to rent a house nearby. Be sure to bring some fruit and take this. What is it. Some thoughts I jotted down by the editor's office. Tell them to print it if he dare. Yes Joseph and Nancy don't look mournfully. It may seem strange that I should put such emphasis on this fine but you would not want me to pay it when I feel that it is wrong would you. No of course not dear we heard a long I'll be all right here. I wake up is this the first day for you too. Is that your employer that brings you food. Yes that's that's Tommy.
He looks like a help he isn't strong. Did you notice the bruises around his face. No I did didn't do you have. Oh yes. Bruises. Why ask him when he comes back. I will I will indeed. All men tell me something. Why do you wear that thing. Because people told me I could not Polish people from the prejudice without knowing why. So I felt that the prejudice and now I'm in jail. You think a man should wear a beard. I don't know if it matters. I think it does. Do you have. I think it's a bad habit you want to shave plumber. Well what'd they put us in the same cell with you anyway. I don't know. What do you what do you mean. Is there some reason. Reason Oh man this is the reason the razor. That's right. What do you aim to do you know we're here to wait but just the right moment. Yeah when you go to sleep I see right here just as soon as
it goes to sleep. Gentlemen I would not advise it. I would not touch me if I were you I am not a weak man. I have plywood with new rules a New England soil and I'm as strong as I am big. So maybe you go on to sleep. Jail or jail are innocent at that. What good are the jailer do you jail are going to be quiet. Well the gracious man hold your tongue. What is it these men intend to shave me and I insist that they be taken out of this jail cell. You told him what we play and which was a foolish thing for you to do what the town will get about the business. But I want to help you there will be three of us to get it done. I would not come into the center with that intention of if I were you. Who has the reason. Stand back from a high road you grab him. Don't leave me alone. I understand look
out he's got to put it down a deed I don't put it down on top of you if you come one step closer. Love me this is a jail not the open street and I'm the jail and not another step. Oh look I don't. Want to. Get out of here. I want to do. Whatever you want to open door. Good Lord I'm crazy but the dealers and they're always like. How did you leave me. However I quit I quit. Get up stand up. I am I am. Now I want your word that you were never so long as you permit any man to shave my beard in this job I promise you no word my word before your maker before him. Get out of here. Here's the key. Open the door. Close it. Oh right you have asked for it. Then you will get it.
I have your word yes I know but I gave you no promise not to put you in the dungeon and that I will if I must get ten men to carry you with you will be thirsty hungry and cold and tell you big me for a razor. Good night old man. Good night. Tommy. Tommy. Yes. Who is it. It's me. Your own father. Where. Down here at the window below the street. I can't see you sir. It's a very small window. Look you have on a belt around your waist. Yes more with a buckle and through the grating to me I swear. There you are. All right put it up now. I take that note to the sheriff here I hear. Tell him I'm in the dungeon without cause. I will sir. And and one thing more to me I hear your face is bruised not so much. Yesterday there was an argument
about me ice or how did you do. I hold my own sir. I told him clear enough when I got to be old enough. I was going to grow a beard and there was nothing to be done about it. You'd better think it over to learn or shame Tommy. It's a miserable world for those who do not conform. Now Hardy icer already. He's in there Rev.. Thank you J Lo. Call me when you want out. Joseph Palmer. Yeah well you hear on the cock preacher. If you came
to tell me about the wrath of God go on home. Why is the dark in here while the shadows close. Because I was in a dungeon. But should have made the jailer take me out. So the jailer put me in here and closed me up. I asked him how long have you been in darkness. I don't know. Start of the 22nd of September. It is now December the 20th is it. I mean a days is that almost three months. That's not as long as I had thought. Your son brings you food when he can but jailer as a hungry man and water preacher never fair and never mind. I see no help from you. I am God's servant Joseph Palmer and in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is clearly written down to visit those who are in jail our brother or other. Sorry I'm not a brother to such as you. I have not forgotten No nor has God Himself as I know there with the others. And you brought around buck and others took communion and when you got to me you passed me over Paul and I try to understand the
feeling of the people and that was months passed me by. As if you were the one to determine who should be acceptable to God. What you did was not totally acceptable either. You had no business taking up the silver goblet and drinking from it just I love my Jesus as much as any man. And when a preacher will not give me communion I will throw you over the altar as Jesus would. As Jesus would. If Jesus had been there do you think he would have refused me communion because I had a beard. Perhaps he would he would know sacrilege when he sees are you suggesting that he would have shaved his own. Are you preaching to me isn't this the time somebody preached to you and those imbeciles out there you call your congregation to unlock me in this hell I'm stuck on my window and denied me water for days at a time. I'm not lying sir because because I have defied them to make me take one action I do not intend to take which is none of their confound business. Now tell me creature if I am your brother.
Would it not be wise to do more than visit me in jail. Why not stand upon your puppet Sunday morning and tell your people to let me go. I have not responsible for everything they do. No you hide behind your fear. Look here my friend I have heard enough. I will not help you. I came in here half afraid I would find a man who had lost all faith in the God I worship. And so you have. Well you selected this path. You hard headed impetuous temper red man. Now go down to your grave as you have dug it. I won't help you where you'll be and I intend to go on. Fine I will defy you I will wear that as a banner a banner a juror juror come let the preacher out. He must go into town and tell the people to pray for me.
How many come out of there and maybe I'm out. Come take the food if you want it. Code here. You see my son you know son brought chicken. Me and my wife had taken. So I brought you and here's some dressing and some water. Why it's Christmas is on today and I know it's two o'clock on Christmas afternoon and this is a Christmas present for me as a jailer. Call it what you may do you also does that bring it in. Look here take it you know bring it in and put it on the stool. What makes you think I will throw it in your face. No you wouldn't you would go home as miserable as you were this morning. How do you know how I felt this morning because I know what Christmas does to people who have a weight on their conference. So soothe your conscience with a piece of turkey and some dressing and a glass of water out of jail or put it on the stew.
There you are you are forgiven. I ask to no pardon and I don't intend to take down the blinds and let the air enlighten either nor to change my ways a bit. But on Christmas it seemed to me at least that where I am then leave me alone and I will eat your apology. I sent word to your wife and son that they could call on you this afternoon. They will I guess and you want a most generous man there. Now go well go on. You have done your good deed Mr Palmer I didn't come here to ask no pardon. What I have done has been done in good faith. What do you mean every man went around here looking like that with one of them. I don't like it. It's none of your business but even so I've got to hand it to you Mr. public. I've been a jailer here for many a year. What are you trying to say did I. Just this tonight after your family has come to see you
then decide Josie decided to pay the fine. It's but ten dollars. Then go on home. I hope you will. I don't want any more of that kind of action I've had to take with you during the past months. You can let me go whenever you choose Jay Leno. You've got to pay the five and think it over. We should go home. I. Don't know what do. You have any more trouble in school with fistfights timing. I don't know father. What's the matter with the boy and Nancy. He won't say what is a boy. You think nothing. Come on now I don't think he wants to tell you while I'm here so I'll leave you to yourselves. I'm tired of being in this room anyway Nancy.
Don't worry about the conditions here. No Joseph. I know your strength is the strength of twenty. It's not an easy task to teach a town a lesson but I would do it dear. I wonder if it's worth the sacrifice it is. I wonder Joseph Nowadays I wonder all the time. Good by dear Nancy. Nancy I remember when when you were younger I was thinking the other day of the times we used to run across the meadows out on the farm. Yes. How many times we did that. I think a lot of that in our meadow was the brooks and trees in the wind and the rolling clouds and the sea at the high rock yesterday. It relieves my mind. So I spend my days thinking of you in the places we have been and the places we will go when this is done. Joseph when. So they will let you out.
Yes they will. So pay the fine. Goodbye for nothing and goodbye the door the doors open is it. Yes the jailer left it open for us. Now Tommy what is all this. Start at the beginning the beginning was easy sir. They hit me with their fists at the beginning or did they not. But that didn't work. So then they stopped talking to me except call me names and ask me what my father would get out of jail. Father I have a friend left in this entire town. Then you never had a friend in this town don't talk like that. I know that isn't true but Tommy don't blame it on the people father. It's not them or who is it then it's you. Aren't you to blame to blame for for wanting to be a free man father free. Are you free in here. Look this is a stonewall father. These are stone
steps. These are bars this is a jail me. Let's let's say no more about it. Think of something I can do. But but but not surrender. I cannot think of it better to be like Socrates to the fire the people drink the hemlock and die in prison and come from a father to be free does a man have to be different. I don't know. Can a man live like others and be free. Yes. Then why not do that father. Why not even shave. You are a strong man sir. You are a wise leader. But no one can follow you. Had you told me his tummy bother. It's only $10 isn't it. That's all the money to finance. What else is there sir that's worth all this. I don't know what it is Tommy.
I only know I've always felt that it was very important. Now you go on to your mother father consider. Yes and I go on. Good bye sir. Jailer come lock the door I'm coming. Is it sundown yet. Right at sundown. The sky is red. Christmas almost over. Well Lord Jesus happy but did you decide about what the fight. Are you going to pay the jailer. I have thought about it and I've decided that I don't know which course would require the stronger man right now refusing to pay or paying. Where freedom live decide to pay. Otherwise I don't know what might
happen to you with the deep winter coming on. It gets below freezing in here. There's only one course for me to take jailer. When you come right down to it it's rights and I'm going to take it. So lock the door. I said lock the door. Come hell or high water I'll pay that fine. Six months today or not. No not today thank you. Never pay the fine Never. No I won't pay the fine.
Yeah I believe you would stay on here until you died so get out. Go on home. You're free to go. You mean. You mean the town has decided that I don't have to pay the fine. Yes so go on home. I'm glad to see it too. One thing more jailer before I go. At times food has been brought me here and I have not gotten it. And two bushels of corn which were mine were used by the town in the whitewash of the jail. What are you saying only that I figure the town owes me some money for food and coal and I won't leave the jail until that debt is paid. You won't go I won't go home I will you please go. I am here until I am paid what the Taltos may well be a jackleg Baba jealous. Yes yes go get fall men and tell them to come on over here and and help pick up Joseph Palmer and set him down outside the jail. Yes said
Palmer. You're not going to get any money from the town. And we aren't going to get any from you. You're just going to leave the incident as closed. But I don't think I'll ever forget it. I don't know what prompts a man to spend more than a year in jail just because he thinks a fine is wrong. Lose a year's work live for much of the time in a dark cell alone. But whatever prompted you to do it right or wrong it would appear to me that that you were in some sort of prize Palmer. First Miss. I am a free man. You're a con founded slave. Now go on home. Hard not to leave. Men are coming to throw you in the street. Hadn't you rather walk not walk. You put me in here now take me out. PALMER I don't know whether to cuss you or to want to shake your hand. I'm glad I met you and and I wish I hadn't I don't know whether you're a devil or a saint. When I was shadow Don't you worry about it. I'm just a joke Palmer. That's what I am. I'm a man and I'm my own mat. So
down Jeff we might as well be comfortable as we wait for the jailer to get back with the man and for the fight to stop. That evening Joe Palmer was ushered out of the jail bird and all. And so his prison term came to an unceremonious and this was in 1830 and Palmer lived 45 years after the. Fact. He lived to see beard grow popular and would often taught his persecutors when he met them on the street where you go teasing Vandyke's and sideburn. A friend of Emerson Alcott and other individuals of his day job Palmer never changed his ways and never when he died a monument was built in the north limits to graveyard in Massachusetts.
And this inscription is carved for all to see. Persecuted for wearing the beard. American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton and is produced by the communication center of the University of North Carolina. Director these programs are produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational Radio and Television Center an independent agency
established by the Ford Foundation. They're intended for use by educational and commercial radio stations in this and other countries and by schools for in-school listening purposes. They are in almost all cases based on actual events. Today's program the free man. Presented Erwin as Palmer with Bill Trotman as the jailer. JoEllen Wade as Mrs. Palmer George Brown holds us Tommy and Bill binds as the past. Others in the cast were Joe Young Tom Wood and Jim Sam. Cast members of American Adventure are students professors and townspeople of the university community. American Adventure is produced and
American adventure
Free man
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The story of Joseph Palmer, a 19th century American who refused to pay a fine for keeping facial hair and was imprisoned as a result. On principle, Palmer remained in prison until he was finally released more than a year later.
Other Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
Fines (Penalties)
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Actor: Wynn, Earl
Actor: Barnes, Bill
Actor: Young, Joe
Actor: Simms, Tom
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-20 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:19
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Chicago: “American adventure; Free man,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2022,
MLA: “American adventure; Free man.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 20, 2022. <>.
APA: American adventure; Free man. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from