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Friday, 26 December 2014

Electric Chair

Thomas Edison invented the electric chair not as a means of execution but to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current.

Dr. George Fell, a pioneer of life-saving mechanical respiration techniques in the 1880s, also had a role in designing the first electric chair used for an execution.

Convicted axe murderer William Kemmler was the first person executed in US to be executed by electrocution in the electric chair. The procedure was undertaken at Auburn State Prison in New York on August 6, 1890 and took eight minutes.

The execution of William Kemmler, August 6, 1890. Illustration from the French newspaper, Le Petit Parisien

Kemmler's executioner was Edwin Davis, who had been given the official title of “State Electrician” for performing the job.  Davis went on to perform 240 executions, including that of the first woman victim Martha M Place in 1899.

Martha Place was the first woman to be executed in the electric chair,. The procedure took place at Sing Sing Prison, New York on March 20, 1899. She had murdered her stepdaughter, Ida Place.

Martha Place
Harry Houdini purchased the Auburn prison electric chair from Huber's Dime Museum in 1910 and kept in his New York home.

Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara was executed in Florida's electric chair on March 20, 1933 for fatally shooting Anton Cermak in an assassination attempt against President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt. Zangara became enraged when he learned no newsreel cameras would be filming his final moments.

Mug shot of Giuseppe Zangara

Donald Synder was a convicted murderer who was sent to Sing Sing to await execution in the 1950s. Snyder knew he wouldn’t be able to escape from Sing Sing’s death row, so he ballooned from 150 pounds to more than 300 in an unsuccessful attempt to become too fat for the electric chair.

Source Daily Express

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