• Weird History

Last-Known Uses Of 10 Historical Punishments

List RulesVote up the historical punishments that lasted longer than you ever imagined.

Historical phenomena come and go. They all have starting points, while many have end dates. Identifying the latter can be difficult, especially as historical practices take on unique characteristics and timelines in individual places and within different cultures. This is definitely the case when determining the last times punishments have been used in history. 

Some historical punishments seem barbaric to modern sensibilities, while others are really just modified versions of punishment techniques still used today. Numerous historical punishment methods have fallen out of use, but many have significantly later expiration dates than one might think. Take a look at some punishments from history and vote up the ones that had much longer lives than you realized. 

  • Photo: Hephaestos/Kauko56 / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Guillotine Was Last Used In 1977

    Eugen Weidmann was executed by guillotine in Versailles, France, in 1939 - the final public use of the device and the last public execution ever carried out in France. Weidmann was a kidnapper and murderer who killed six people in Paris in 1937.

    The guillotine remained in use for nearly four more decades, however. In 1977, Hamida Djandoubi was sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend. The native of Tunisia lived in Marseilles, where his execution was carried out on September 10, 1977.

    Surprising last use?
  • Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Flogging Was Used In Parts Of The US Until 1964

    A pillory holds a prisoner's head and arms, while stocks bound an offender's wrists and ankles. Officially, England banned the use of pillories in 1837, but the use of stocks has never been taken off the books as a punishment.

    In the American colonies, both pillories and stocks were used to detain and punish criminals. Men and women alike were placed into the devices through the 17th century. Both stocks and pillories fell into less frequent use through the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1839, federal law mandated "the punishments of whipping and of standing in the pillory were abolished."

    Individual US states, however, kept whipping, pillories, and stocks as punishments. Delaware didn't ban pillories until 1905, but the state didn't abolish whipping and flogging until 1964. The end of floggings came on the heels of public outrage over Judge Stewart Lynch's sentence of 20 lashes on two separate occasions during the early 1960s.

    Surprising last use?
  • Initially a method of execution used against noncitizens, foreigners, and Christians, crucifixion had a 500-year lifespan under the Romans. Crucifixion brought about death in any number of ways, with individuals suffering the elements as they slowly dehydrated and hanged for as many as four days.

    Crucifixion was officially prohibited by Emperor Constantine in 337 AD, but the practice later experienced resurgences in Japan during the 16th and 17th centuries. At various points during the 19th and 20th centuries, the use of crucifixion has been reported in various parts of the world.

    Surprising last use?
  • Photo: Detroit Publishing Company / WIkimedia Commons / No known copyright restrictions

    Chain Gangs Were Still Used During The 2010s 

    Chains were used to keep enslaved individuals confined and to perpetuate servitude, something that came to an end in the US with the passage of the 13th Amendment. The penal use of chain gangs, however, continued in the US and Australia through the 19th and early 20th centuries, where convicts were linked to one another as they performed manual labor

    Generally, chain gangs fell out of use during the mid-20th century. Southern states, where such gangs were most commonly found, stopped using them in the years following WWII - but didn't remove them from potential use. In 1995, Alabama began using chain gangs again, as did locations in six other states. Alabama stopped chaining convicts together in 2001, but chain gangs were still found in Florida in 2013. At least one prison in Arizona claimed to have "the nation's only female chain gang" as late as 2019. 

    Surprising last use?