A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

History: Adoption of the Electric Chair in NJ (1906)

Edward C Stokes (Wikimedia)
The 12 Apr 1906 edition of The Matawan Journal reported that NJ Governor Edward C Stokes signed the "electrocution bill," taking murderers off the gallows and putting them in the electric chair. The new form of capital punishment, considered less harsh than hanging, would go into effect on 1 Mar 1907. On the occasion of the bill's signing, Governor Stokes said, "This is a good law and I am glad to have the opportunity to approve it. I believe in it, for I am convinced that death by hanging is a brutal method."

Experimentation on the use of electrocution for capital punishment was done by Harold P Brown at Thomas Edison's laboratories in West Orange, NJ in the late 1880s. While Edison's better-known name is sometimes associated with the device, Brown is the actual inventor of the chair.

The first execution using an electric chair took place in New York State in 1890. The execution took eight minutes and was quite messy, prompting George Westinghouse to comment that "they would have done better using an axe."A reporter on the scene commented that electrocution was far worse than hanging.

Edison and Brown demonstrated the effectiveness of the use of alternating current for electrocution by killing a circus elephant in 1903.


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