The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History

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2009 Paperback Fair Item is intact, but may show shelf wear. Pages may include notes and highlighting. May or may not include supplemental or companion material. Access codes ... may or may not work. Connecting readers since 1972. Customer service is our top priority. Read more Show Less

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2009 Paperback NEAR FINE 9780786444939 This listing is a new book, a title currently in-print which we order directly and immediately from the publisher. *****PLEASE NOTE: This ... item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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This book provides a history of the electric chair and analyzes its features, its development, and the manner of its use. Chapters cover the early conceptual stages as a humane alternative to hanging, and the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse that was one of the main forces in the chair's adoption as a mode of execution. Also presented are an account of the terrible first execution and a number of the subsequent gruesome employments of the chair. The text explores the changing attitudes toward the chair as state after state replaced it with lethal injection.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Opponents of capital punishment have often condemned the methods of execution as vehemently as the executions themselves. Brandon Keene State Coll., NH contends that, in modern times, the electric chair is the most barbaric of all the methods. Ironically, although intended as a humane alternative to hanging and supported by such illustrious names as Thomas Edison, the chair has had a ghastly history of botched or gruesome executions. One must admire Brandon's extensive research. Beginning from the first execution of William Kemmler in 1890, the author furnishes detail after detail of inside information. He personalizes not only the condemned but the executioners as well. His portrait of executioner Robert Elliott, who often killed several men in one day, is priceless. Brandon never says that he is opposed to capital punishment, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions, but he does say loud and clear that electrocution should be replaced by lethal injection--which he considers a truly more humane alternative. This book is certainly not for everyone, but for crime buffs with a stomach for gruesome details, it is essential.--Frances O. Sandiford, Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Brandon (writing, Keene State College) reviews the history of the electric chair and analyzes its features and development since it was first used in 1890. Originally conceived as a humane alternative to hanging, the electric chair has recently lost popularity as a method of execution, being replaced in many cases by the newest humane executor, lethal injection. Brandon does not hide his disgust with the use of the chair, and tells the gruesome tales of some of its uses in some detail. He also discusses the economic and political sides of the story, relating the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse that was one of the main forces in the chair's adoption as a mode of execution. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
a history of the first decade of the electric chair. Brandon tells an absorbing excellent, readable work
Library Journal
one must admire Brandon's extensive research...essential
highly readable, meticulously documented and absolutely fascinating important contribution to the ongoing debate over capital punishment in this state and this country...recommended
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786444939
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/11/2009
  • Series: Social Sciences/Criminal Justice
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 285
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor Craig Brandon teaches writing at Keene State College in New Hampshire. He is the author of numerous articles and a book of popular history, and was a newspaper journalist for two decades. He has served as an on-air expert for PBS, NBC, and History Channel television programs, and lives in Surry, New Hampshire.

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Table of Contents

Preface 1
1 The Genie of the Gilded Age 7
2 The Hangman's Terrible Legacy 25
3 The Death Commission 47
4 The Battle of the Currents 67
5 The People v. William Kemmler 89
6 Westinghouse's Counterattack 106
7 Cruel and Unusual Punishment 134
8 The Human Experiment 160
9 The Reaction: "A Thrill of Indignation" 181
10 The First Era: 1892-1974 205
11 The Electric Chair Reborn: 1976-1998 244
Notes 259
Bibliography 267
Index 273
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