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First Design for Electric Chair, 1890

First Design for Electric Chair, 1890


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33.0 x 30.7 cm ⏐ 13.0 x 12.1 in (300dpi)

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In 1881, the state of New York established a committee to determine a new, more humane method of execution to replace hanging. Alfred Southwick, a member of the committee, developed the idea of running electric current through a condemned man after hearing a case of how relatively painlessly and quickly a drunk man died due to touching exposed power lines. The first electric chair was produced by Harold P. Brown and Arthur Kennelly. Brown worked as an employee of Thomas Edison, and Kennelly, Edison's chief engineer at the West Orange facility was assigned to work with Brown on the project. To prove the danger of AC electricity and its suitability for executions, Brown and Edison publicly killed many animals with AC for the press in hopes of associating alternating current with electrical death in the midst of the current wars with George Westinghouse. The first person sentenced to be executed by the electric chair was William Kemmler, a convicted murderer.

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