What Happened Next . . .
A number of witnesses to Kemmler's execution were deeply troubled and shaken by what they saw. The media coverage of the execution was extensive and portrayed a wide range of emotions. Some were sensational, even falsely reporting that flames shot from Kemmler's mouth. As a result, a public push in New York for prohibiting electrocutions rose but proved ineffective. The state legislature stood behind the new law. Thomas Edison and others claimed that more powerful generators in future executions would avoid the problems of Kemmler's execution.
The next execution by electric chair came soon in the spring of 1891. Four convicted murders, each for a different crime, were executed at New York's Sing Sing Prison. The revamped generator was able to produce a steady high voltage current. The lower electrodes were placed on the inmates' calves rather than on their spines. With much smoother operation in these executions, acceptance of the electric chair grew.
New York State used the electric chair for seventy-two more years, executing 695 convicts. Other states adopted electrocution as well to carry out death sentences. The change over to electric chairs, however, was not uniform. Some states still used hanging into the 1950s.
Other states, including California and Arizona, never adopted the electric chair. They eventually switched to use of cyanide gas in gas chambers to replace hanging. Delaware, New Hampshire, and Washington still offered hanging as an option at the end of the twentieth century. Through early 2003 a total of 4,458 people had been executed in the electric chair after Kemmler.
- William Kemmler - Capital Punishment Around The World
- William Kemmler - Excerpt From "far Worse Than Hanging"
- Other Free Encyclopedias