[LB026116], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to Alfred Porter Southwick, December 19th, 1887


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[LB026116], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to Alfred Porter Southwick, December 19th, 1887

Editor's Notes

[From TAE] "I am in receipt of your letter 5th inst., in further reference to [unclear] as an agent to supplant the gallows, and have carefully considered your remarks. Your points are well taken and though I would join heartily in an effort to totally abolish capital punishment, I at the same time realize that while the system is recognized by the State, it is the duty of the latter to adopt the most humane method available for the purpose of disposing of criminals under sentence of death. ### /The best appliance in this connection is to my mind, the one which will perform its work in the shortest space of time and inflict the least amount of suffering upon its victim. This I believe can be accomplished by the use of Electricity, and the most suitable apparatus for the purpose is that class of dynamo electric machinery, which employs intermittent currents. ### The most effective of these are known as "alternating machines," manufactured principally in the country by Mr. Geo. Westinghouse, Pittsburgh, and the cost of engine alternating dynamo and appliances sufficient for the work above referred to would hardly exceed $2500; the cost of maintenance would be a mere trifle owing to the infrequent use made of the apparatus. ### The passage of the current from these machines through the human body, even by the slightest contacts, produces instantaneous death, practical evidence of which has been supplied during the past six months in the city of New Orleans, were two men have been killed and others injured by this quality of current. The details of this circumstance I cannot myself furnish, but doubtless the New Orleans authorities would provide you with accurate data if you consider it would assist you in arriving at a solution of the problem you have commenced to work out." Yours very truly, [signed] TAE





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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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