The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History

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Overview

Since its first use in 1890, the electric chair has been the means of legal execution for over 4,300 individuals in 23 states. Its use in recent years has steadily declined, and in many states now the chair is used only as a museum display.

This book provides a history of the electric chair and analyzes its features, its development, and the manner of its use.

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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.
Booknews
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 (booknews.com)
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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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