It was supposed to be a humane alternative to the noose. On March 22, 1890, The Times reported on a New York Court of Appeals ruling that a new invention, the electric chair, did not constitute cruel punishment.
It would be used to execute a convicted wife killer, William Kemmler.
When the execution took place in August, the condemned man conducted himself with dignity, thus supplying a grace note to the grim proceedings.
The first use of the electric chair proved a bungled nightmare that left witnesses nauseated and weak-kneed, aghast at what they had seen, heard and smelled; even the district attorney wept.
The headline read “Far Worse Than Hanging,” and the reporter left no doubt about where he stood, declaring in the very first paragraph that the execution was “revolting” and a “disgrace to civilization.”
Source: The New York Times, November 9, 2015