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Blood and Volts – Edison, Tesla & the Electric Chair
(Autonomedia 1996)
thmetzger
The grim and gripping story of the first electric chair and much more.Power and progress embodied by the technological death machine, proving the emerging superpower to be one step ahead and more advanced than the rest of the world.
Following a botched execution by hanging that took Roxalana Druse 15 minutes to die from suffocation, progress meant the introduction of a modern ‘more humane’ way of killing. The electric chair was to be this altar for progress where the human sacrifice could be performed with man made lightening supposedly producing instant death, painless and clean.
So this is the story of William Kemmler, the first man to be killed by the chair, and it’s the story of the struggle between General Electric, using Thomas Edison’s direct current and Westinghouse, using Nikola Tesla’s alternating current, for supremacy in electrification. Not a small reason to push ahead with the idea of judicial murder on the electric chair was the attempt by the Edison camp to discredit AC as too dangerous for daily domestic use, in fact only suitable for killing criminals. Westinghouse on the other hand did everything to halt the development, but he lost this battle, although he over the years won the war with AC.
And Kemmler and scores of others met a gruesome fate as they were cooked to death on the altar of american progress.
A very readable account that successfully connects the different people, motivations, history – technology, crime, profit, death, law and the cult of progress.

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