This is the interesting story behind the invention of the Electric Chair. I hope you will find it as interesting as I do.

In the late 1800s, an inventor named Thomas Edison was working with DC (Direct Current) with ideas of making it commercially available to consumers. At the same time in Europe, a young inventor named Nikola Tesla was working with AC (Alternating Current) and had this idea that electric motors could work better and more efficiently on AC. This concept so far had been rejected as ridiculous by technical scholars of the time, no one knew how to construct an AC motor. Tesla didn't give up though, and in 1884, came to America and went to work for Thomas Edison who was attempting to promote his DC current at the time. Tesla presented his concept of an AC motor to Edison and tried to get it into production. Ooops, bad idea, or maybe just the wrong person to talk to about AC. Edison was enraged, decided that Tesla must be demented, and fired him.

Tesla went on to gain funding from J. P. Morgan and acquired patents for his invention of AC power systems and other devices.   Within a few years, he convinced George Westinghouse to invest in the manufacturing of AC power systems in direct competition to Edison's DC system.

Edison was outraged and determined to put a stop to this by convincing the public that Westinghouse's AC power was too dangerous to use. He acquired a license to use AC current and set about electrocuting stray dogs and cats in front of newspaper reporters with it. Eventually, he used larger animals in his demonstrations and was quoted as saying "would you want your wife cooking with this?". Meanwhile, Westinghouse and Tesla ignored his theatrics and rantings and went on promoting their product of AC current.

Edison, still determined to stop Westinghouse and get his DC power out to customers, started quietly making secretive visits to Auburn Prison where he constructed the first Electric Chair from a dental chair. Now, he had the means to show the public what AC current could do to a human being under the pretense of a more humane execution method. It was anything but that.

The first man to "have a seat and light up" was a convict named William Kemmler. He was strapped into the chair in front of news reporters and subjected to 1000 volts of AC power. Unfortunately for Kemmler, it wasn't a high enough voltage to do the job effectively and when the current was shut off after 20 seconds or so, the poor man was still alive and had to be zapped again for a longer time to finish him off. Well, maybe he had it coming or he wouldn't have been the guest of honor on the throne in the first place. It was not a pretty sight but Kemmler's agony served Edison's purpose even better. To further promote DC current, the Edison people began saying that poor Kemmler had been "Westinghoused" As it turned out, it was proven that AC power was more practical for long distance transmission because it could be put through transformers to step the voltage way up for long distances, then stepped back down at the other end for consumer use. This cannot be done with DC and it's use was limited to local factories with their own generators only.

20 years later, Edison conceded that AC was better for commercial power than his DC and since it was the only way he could sell power to the public, we now have "The Edison Co." using Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse's AC current. We also had the Electric Chair around for over half a century until it was finally phased out by the Gas Chamber, and finally "lethal injection", certainly a much more humane method of execution. Oh, and btw, they eventually raised the voltage of the chair to over 2000 volts which made it more effective but still no more humane.