The Execution of William Kemmler
The first ever execution by electrocution was carried out at the Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890.
The electric chair was invented by a Buffalo dentist, A.P. Southwick, in 1881. It was considered a more humane way to dispatch a felon to his eternal reward and it gradually replaced hanging as the prevalent form of execution in America.
Hanging was the oldest form of capital punishment in this country but fell out of favor after several executions were badly mishandled. Too short a drop and the prisoner strangles painfully; too long a drop and the prisoner is decapitated. Since 1977 there have been only three executions by hanging in the US.
William Kemmler, 30, who was convicted of killing his wife with a hatchet, was the electric chair's first
"Start the current! Start the current, again!" a doctor yelled.Success.
The voltage was doubled to almost 2,000 volts, and this time the electrocution lasted for about two minutes.
The room filled with the smell of burned cloth and flesh, and reporter G.G. Bain of the United Press fainted.
When the current stopped this time, Kemmler was pronounced dead.
AUBURN PRISON'S "OLE SPARKY"