1890 1st person to be executed by electric chair

August 6, 2021

1890 1st person to be executed by electric chair

On the break of dawn of August 6, 1890, Kemmler awoke to his execution which was the first of its kind. After quickly donning a suit, having breakfast, and saying a silent prayer, his head was shaved. Kemmler was then presented to 17 witnesses who were in attendance and walked to his final seat. Witnesses attested to Kemmler being calm and composed before and during his execution.

However, the execution didn’t go as expected. The previous day, the chair had been thoroughly tested on a horse, and the process had been seamless. On this ill-fated day, the generator that was expected to transfer the electrical current was charged with 1000 volts because it was thought to be sufficient enough to induce a quick and painless cardiac arrest that would cause Kemmler’s death. The current was allowed to pass through him for 17 seconds, after which he was declared dead.

Witnesses, however, saw that he was still breathing, and in a bid to carry out the execution, they electrocuted him a second time with 2000 volts. This second attempt, however, was too much and led to an incredibly gory spectacle. Kemmler’s skin was completely charred, leaving a nauseating smell of burning flesh in the execution room.

William Francis Kemmler became the first person to be executed in an electric chair under New York’s new execution law that replaced hanging with electrocution. The method was thought to be more quick, painless, effective and humane. Kemmler was convicted for murdering Matilda Ziegler, his girlfriend, who was then considered his common-law wife.


  1. Len Collings

    Should be using the chair daily. Would prevent any repete offenders and possible stop first offenders before they crime.

    • Tucker Bear

      They should use benches instead of a single chair and line up the Democrats and their looting friends

    • steve leary

      there has NEVER been any evidence that death penalty has any effect…one of the major reasons we are ranked very low in world for human rights (37th?) is that we continue this barbaric practice

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    When they did away with old sparky / the gas chamber crime started to climb and has now went through the roof, bring them back and see how fast the crime rate will decline. I saw / touched old sparky in the OLD original Jackson Prison behind the one they still use today back in 1975 when I was there picking up supplies, it was being used by the COSTGUARDS back then. When they electrocuted someone everyone in the old small dirt floor cells could witness it, the center was opened up and the guards use to walk over the top of the very small cells which also served as the prison wall on three sides with the forth side being where the guard station and old sparky was, I can still remember that day very well I couldn’t help but feel sad standing there.


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