During the medieval and early modern periods, the drunkards cloak was a method of punishment similar to the stalks, for criminals and even political rebels. However, the drunkards cloak was most commonly used as a type of public humiliation for those arrested for public intoxication.
The punishment device was a large wooden barrel with three openings, one on top for the neck and head, and two on the sides for the arms. The barrel was large enough to cover the victim’s entire body from his neck down to just above his ankles .
Usually, the bottom of the barrel was weighted down around the neck and the lower rim, in order to induce pain as well as humiliation. Once wearing the barrel, the drunk would be paraded through the streets of his town while his neighbors and friends looked on.
While the drunkards cloak, otherwise known as the shunned mantle or the coat of shame was first used in Germany in the 13th century, it becomes quickly spread throughout Europe.
from Germany the drunkards cloak spread to Holland where it was known as the Spanish mantel, or the barrel pillory. The punishment then made it all the way to England where it was known as the Newcastle cloak or finally the drunkards cloak.
The punishment became most popular in England after the alehouse act of 1550 one made public drunkenness a punishable offense, this act came into being during the Golden Age of ale houses in England as the brewing of beer became a popular livelihood from 1550 to the 1700s a career that was actually more popular among women.
The Golden Age of ale houses saw the establishments become the center of good-fellowship community gatherings and public displays of drunkenness, and misbehavior it was also believed that Ale houses were not only places of drunkards and prostitutes, but also places for political subversion and the planning of uprisings which is possibly why the Ale House act was actually created
In the 1650s, during the reign of Oliver Cromwell who enforced the Ale House act it was recorded through the oath of one John Willis of Apes, which that he hath seen men drove up and down the streets with a great tub or barrel opened in the sides with a hole in one end, to put through their heads and so covered their shoulders and bodies down to the small of their legs, and then closed the same called the new fashion cloak and so make them march to view of all beholders, and this is their punishment for the drunkards and the like during this same period the drunkards cloak made its way over to the colonies.
in North America, the device survived up until the American Civil War. During which it was used to punish soldiers for crimes while they were enlisted one such soldier was a member of the Union Army in Massachusetts who was made to declare “I am a thief” while he was marched through all the streets of the brigade, to which his regiment was attached as a drumbeat in the background since then there have been a handful of recorded instances of the drunkards cloak being used as a form of punishment in American prisons throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.