We have started editing The Electric Chair: The Effort to Humanize Execution, a video that will examine the social, legal, and political factors surrounding the history of the electric chair. Using interviews with academic experts and images from historical archives, the video will tell the intriguing story of the electric chair, from the debates over its introduction in the late 1880s through the legal challenges to its continued use in the 2000s.

The Electric Chair: The Effort to Humanize Execution explores the hope Americans placed in technology; the battle between Edison and Westinghouse over whose dynamos would supply the “executioner’s current”; the grim insights of an executioner who electrocuted 387 felons; the story of a reporter who, in the course of witnessing 189 electrocutions, changed from a neutral stance on the death penalty to an advocate for abolition; the legal decisions that ended the use of the electric chair; and the reasons why the U.S. has retained capital punishment when other western nations have condemned it. By placing questions of cruelty, utility, fairness, and mistake in their specific historical context, the video will give viewers the tools to understand and debate the complexities of capital punishment today.