INTERESTING FACTS RELATING TO EXECUTIONS:
(a) Edwin F. Davis, state electrician, supervised the execution of William Kemmler. He also "pulled the switch" at 53 other executions at Auburn. In addition he attended to executions in Sing Sing and Clinton prisons in New York as well as prisons in New Jersey and Connecticut.
(b) Guard William C. Patterson escorted Kemmler and 53 other persons to their death. While he once remarked that "I was not employed at Auburn as a judge", he refused to participate in the electrocution of one man whom he considered to be innocent.
(a) The electric chair and the death chamber were originally located in the basement of the Administration building in a section formerly used to process incoming inmates. The first seven electrocutions were conducted there.
Conditions of that location were considered somewhat unsatisfactory as the electrical apparatus and dynamo were located some distance away. Available housing was inadequate, for there was room for only two cells. Additional cells were needed to isolate persons with a death sentence from convicts sentenced to a term in prison
(b) In 1896 an addition was made to the South Wing. A gallery of seven cells, an open corridor and a separate death chamber were annexed to the electrician's office where the dynamo was located. All subsequent electrocutions were conducted at that site.
(c)-- The electric chair was a massive piece of furniture. It had a perforated wooden seat, a foot rest, and a high, slightly sloping adjustable back which supported the head. The arms were broad and flat. Buckles and leather straps, strategically placed to hold the occupant in position, were attached to the chair and to the foot rest in front of it.
The electric cap contained a sponge which was moistened before the cap was adjusted over the victim's head. In the William Kemmler electrocution one of the electrodes contacted the spine, which caused a problem. This was superseded by a leg electrode in all-remaining electrocutions. A second sponge was placed on the victim's left leg when the electrode was applied there.
The chair had only three legs which were fastened to the floor and were properly insulated. The center leg broke during one execution and that to be quickly repaired so that the execution could continue.
Grim and uncompromising in appearance, without a single curved line, the chair was nobody's idea of a thing of beauty, but, although it had to be repaired several times, it worked as it was supposed to do during the fifty-five electrocutions conducted at Auburn.
(d) Initially the electric voltage and amperage used and the length of time that a shock was administered were experimental, and varied from occupant to occupant of the chair. Adjustments were made in each case relative to the general health and body mass of the victim with different degrees of success. For example, the two jolts of 1,300 volts applied to Kemmler were held for too long and his body was badly scorched.
Later on a pattern of using a range of 1,740 - 1,800 volts and 6 1/2 to 7 amperes was established. The amount of current fluctuated in seconds. Most victims of the chair died in less than two minutes. Usually a second precautionary current was passed through the body to assure that death had taken place. Occasionally a third charge was applied.
(a) Among the fifty-five persons put to death at Auburn there were forty-seven white men and one white woman. Seven of the men were black. Two of the blacks had killed fellow convicts.
(b) The youngest persons to occupy the chair were Earl B. Hill and Antonio Giorgio; both were twenty years old. The oldest man, Charles Bonnier, was seventy-eight. He also spent the longest period of time in the condemned cells waiting for court action in his case, some forty months.
(c) on three occasions two people were electrocuted on the same day:
|Executions in Auburn Prison, Auburn, New York: 1890 - 1916 text 1996 by John N. Miskell|