Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Who Wants to Tar-and-Feather a Tax Collector?

In Washington, Pa., the Whiskey Rebellion Festival revives history while celebrating its impact on the present.




Photo by Archie Carpenter
 

 


This month, you’ll find a parade of musket-wielding men in Revolutionary garb on Main Street in Washington, Pa. As part of the annual Whiskey Rebellion Festival, they’ll alternate with typical small-town participants: scout troops, a marching band . . . and maybe a few folks portraying 18th-century farmers. Eventually, shouts will flood the street: “No whiskey tax!” “Join the Rebellion!” And then the finale: the tar-and-feathering of a tax collector.

If you think whiskey is near and dear to our hearts today, you should consider events from local history to understand why that’s so: In the early 1790s, frontier Pennsylvania farmers traded largely in whiskey made from excess rye. Whiskey almost was as precious as money itself. (Yes, some of us still feel that way.) In 1791, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton decided to levy an excise tax on whiskey, and the western Pennsylvanian frontiersmen were not happy. In 1794, they organized, armed and resisted. They broke into the tax inspector’s home and tarred and feathered him. Most importantly, they represented a very real test to the authority of our young government.

The Whiskey Rebellion begins as an almost-charming tale of resistance, but — as is the case with many such stories — it did not end with glory. Rather, it concluded with what many would call total government overreaction.

After the failure of negotiations, President George Washington not only ordered in the militia but also led the charge himself. By the time the troops got to western Pennsylvania, the rebels had disbanded and the militia turned around. In the end, everyone paid their taxes.

The Whiskey Rebellion is remembered as American history’s first example of the government turning the military against its citizens. Its significance to the nation is huge, and crucial moments of that rebellion happened within the same block as the Whiskey Rebellion Festival grounds. So if you’re not into parades or historical re-enactments, take a quick walk to check out the historic houses and sites that are open in conjunction with the festival. You also can catch complimentary bus service to the Frontier History Center in Washington Park, a work-in-progress recreation of a fort site.

At the central festival, the grounds are full of another kind of history: people whose vocations are rooted in historical skills.

At the arts and crafts tent, look for the goods of blacksmiths, knife makers, woodworkers or basket weavers. Saturday is filled with folk, Americana and bluegrass music. In the evening, the festival turns into a party and concert, with New York folk/country act the Felice Brothers headlining. At festival’s end, everyone gathers for a friendly fireworks display.

According to J.R. Shaw, one of three festival organizers, “It’s a celebration of the heritage of the area . . . It’s Main Street, it’s Americana, it’s heritage and it’s a summer festival. It has a little bit of everything for everyone.”

It’s as much about celebrating the region as it is about the rebellion, and that calls for a glass of rye. 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

PIT Turns to CMU to Make Airport Smartest in the World

The airport authority will use minds at CMU to discover ways to make it easier for passengers to get from the terminal’s parking lots to their seat on the plane.

Celebrate August Wilson's Birthday With a King and a Block Party

The ninth play in the 10-part Pittsburgh Cycle will open outside at the August Wilson House.

First Look: Soju in Garfield

Simon Chough’s Korean restaurant is six years in the making.

I Feel Pretty Isn't What You're Expecting (And That's Okay)

Reviews of "I Feel Pretty" and "Super Troopers 2," plus a rundown of events at the Pittsburgh Underground Film Festival.

Get Your Clark Bars While You Can – They May Soon Be Gone

Production of Pittsburgh native candy bar may halt if the current producer cannot find a new buyer.

Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Notes on the busy new bar and restaurant near Grandview Avenue.

The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

It's back! From the dog mom to the working mom, we've got you covered with these locally made must-haves.

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

James Harrison intimidated opposing players in a way not seen since the days of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Bruno Sammartino Dies; Wrestling's Longtime Champ Was 82

The Italian-born star died surrounded by family in his adopted home of Pittsburgh.

It’s Road Repaving Season in Pittsburgh. Is Your Street on the List?

The City of Pittsburgh has finalized its street paving plan for 2018. You’re one click away from finding out if your street or route to work is on the list.

Three Rivers Champion: James S. Perry

Perry combined his love for athletics and volunteerism to create a youth athletic association that at its height provided organized softball and baseball to more than 350 boys and girls.

Three Rivers Art Festival Brings Music and New Art For 59th Summer

Point State Park, Gateway Center and sites across the Cultural District will host free, world-class art and events during this year’s 10-day festival.

Sound of Silence: Century III to be Sold at Sheriff's Sale

The nearly 40-year-old mall encounters foreclosure once again. Will this sale be the end of the line?

Pittsburgh Riverlife President & CEO Vivien Li Resigns

Li is returning to Boston to be with family members who are in declining health.

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

From new decor in the home to donations to charity, check out these ways to repurpose leftover wedding decor.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


PIT Turns to CMU to Make Airport Smartest in the World

PIT Turns to CMU to Make Airport Smartest in the World

The airport authority will use minds at CMU to discover ways to make it easier for passengers to get from the terminal’s parking lots to their seat on the plane.

Comments

Celebrate August Wilson's Birthday With a King and a Block Party

Celebrate August Wilson's Birthday With a King and a Block Party

The ninth play in the 10-part Pittsburgh Cycle will open outside at the August Wilson House.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
First Look: Soju in Garfield

First Look: Soju in Garfield

Simon Chough’s Korean restaurant is six years in the making.

Comments

New Chefs Coming to Smallman Galley

New Chefs Coming to Smallman Galley

Smallman Galley will rotate its third class of chef/owners this June … but this time there’s a twist.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

It's back! From the dog mom to the working mom, we've got you covered with these locally made must-haves.

Comments

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Comments


Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Notes on the busy new bar and restaurant near Grandview Avenue.

Comments

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

The bar team at the Strip District restaurant incubator continues its flights of fancy with Flashback Flavors.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

James Harrison intimidated opposing players in a way not seen since the days of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Comments

Penguins Seeking 3-Peat With The Swagger of a Champion

Penguins Seeking 3-Peat With The Swagger of a Champion

The power play, star power and goaltending are among the primary weapons the Penguins have at their disposal in their quest for another championship. But so, too, is an unshakable belief they can hoist Lord Stanley's Cup three times in a row.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
I Feel Pretty Isn't What You're Expecting (And That's Okay)

I Feel Pretty Isn't What You're Expecting (And That's Okay)

Reviews of "I Feel Pretty" and "Super Troopers 2," plus a rundown of events at the Pittsburgh Underground Film Festival.

Comments

Despite The Rock, Rampage Is a Wild Misfire

Despite The Rock, Rampage Is a Wild Misfire

A review of "Rampage," plus an update on the former Friends of the Hollywood Theater and other local movie news.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

From new decor in the home to donations to charity, check out these ways to repurpose leftover wedding decor.

Comments

How Lucky Socks Played a Key Role in Couple’s Wedding

How Lucky Socks Played a Key Role in Couple’s Wedding

A pair of puffin socks played a big role in this Pittsburgh couple’s relationship — and, in a surprise move by their pastor, their wedding.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Toll Gate Revival Gearing Up for New Location, New Experience

Toll Gate Revival Gearing Up for New Location, New Experience

The vintage décor and reclaimed materials business owned by Seth Hunter will open in a larger Lawrenceville warehouse next month.

Comments

Take a Sneak Peek at Our 2018 Ultimate House

Take a Sneak Peek at Our 2018 Ultimate House

Tours of Empire on Liberty, a one-time furniture and carpet warehouse in Bloomfield turned into a mixed-use structure, take place this month. The tour includes a look at the penthouse and two condos.

Comments