On this day in … 1890

William Kemmler becomes the first person to be executed by electric chair. He is put to death at New York’s Auburn Prison. The electric chair was intended as a more humane way of killing condemned prisoners.

This first attempt did not fulfil expectations, as it appeared to fry Kemmler rather than kill him.

His death gave birth to a new word – to electrocute. This portmanteau combined execute with electricity and strictly means causing death by electricity.

Electric chair used in New York's Sing SIng prison