My first animal execution

On this day in 1888, a 76-pound Newfoundland dog was “executed” by an agent of Thomas Alva Edison to “prove” that AC current (as opposed to the DC electric current he promoted) was dangerous to living things. Harold P. Brown, the executioner, went all around New York State for awhile shocking to death all the manner of fauna, but he preferred stray dogs and cats and paid little boys twenty-five cents each to round them up. (One wonders how many of those “strays” were pets stolen from people’s yards.)

That Newfoundland was the first to go. They are wonderful dogs, so sweet-hearted and patient. Nana, the dog in Peter Pan, was a Newfie. My family has had two.

Thomas Edison was an ass. The Epic Rap Battles of History people proved that.

24 thoughts on “My first animal execution

  1. Crystal July 30, 2013 / 11:42 am

    I agree that Edison had many less than stellar qualities, but he was also a product of a different age. In a time when a lot of people didn’t care about the folks shoved into disgusting, overcrowded tenements with no running water, they weren’t much likely to care about “stray” dogs and cats.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2013 / 1:49 pm

      He was an ass for a lot more reasons than that. The animal electrocution thing is just icing on the cake.

      • Monkey Butt July 31, 2013 / 1:03 am

        yes Meaghan, this is true. Edison was also a patent thief
        he ripped off inventior Nicola Tesla big time.
        He was a complete JERK.

  2. CarlK90245 July 30, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    Anyone who has traveled through Central and South America will probably tell you that they still have little regard for stray animals. In places like Peru, wild dogs run everywhere.

    I was in Lima a few years ago, and was being driven to the hotel from the airport. A stray dog walked out in front of the minivan. The driver could have stopped but he didn’t even attempt to slow down. I let out a gasp, as he smacked into the dog, and the dog tumbled off to the side of the road. He just laughed and said in Spanish, “my wife would hate me if she knew I did that”.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2013 / 1:52 pm

      I know stray dogs in Moscow are a serious problem. In fact, dogs have even learned to COMMUTE on the subway, just like people, getting on in the morning, going into the city, begging for food and scraps and such, then getting back on the subway to go to the relatively safer suburbs at night.

  3. Princess Shantae July 30, 2013 / 3:21 pm

    There is a big problem of stray or just loose dogs on some of the Indian reservations out west. Some of them are wild and some are hybrids with coyotes or wilves and some are pets that they just let run free, but they are a terrible problem b/c they kill livestock and even attack people. And the areas are so poor they couldn’t take their dogs to the vet to get them spayed even if they wanted to and there was a vet nearby. They are trying to put fewer of the dogs down now and spaying and neutering them instead so we’ll see how that works. Before when there was a dog attack and dogs would need to be rounded up they’d be having to get dozens of them at a time.

    • Laurie July 30, 2013 / 11:08 pm

      I have a “rez” dog I adopted from an Indian reservation in Arizona. He is the sweetest, most loving dog you could ever meet. Yes, there are problems with stray dogs on Indian reservations attacking livestock but attacking people is rare nowadays. Not to say there needs to be more education about spaying and neutering (not just on Indian reservations but even in urban and suburban areas like Los Angeles and New York.)

  4. jaclyn July 30, 2013 / 10:18 pm

    There is a wonderful vet on an Indian Reservation in Arizona that spends a weekend every month spaying and neutering animals. He is making a huge difference in the population being overrun. They were having a problem with dogs and cats injuring children, diseases, feral animals, etc. I admire someone that makes a difference like that.
    It is hard to imagine that Edison had that little regard for a animals.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2013 / 10:20 pm

      These “experiments” performed by Edison’s lackeys may not have even be illegal if they happened today. The dog’s suffering was minimal, when you take a good hard look at it, a few minutes, then instant death. But I imagine if it happened nowadays there would be picketing and boycotts and Edison-denouncing Facebook pages and so on.

  5. Laurie July 30, 2013 / 10:51 pm

    There are so many instances of humans killing animals throughout history in the name of “science,” from Rene Descartes “Descartes and his followers performed experiments in which they nailed animals by their paws onto boards and cut them open to reveal their beating hearts. They burned, scalded, and mutilated animals in every conceivable manner. When the animals reacted as though they were suffering pain, Descartes dismissed the reaction as no different from the sound of a machine that was functioning improperly. A crying dog, Descartes maintained, is no different from a whining gear that needs oil” to the experimental bombing of pigs at the Nevada Test sit in the 1950’s. The US government rained atomic bombs on pigs (wearing human clothing) and makeshift houses to see what the results would be…needless to say, both pigs and houses were annihilated, but in the videos you see and hear the pigs screaming as they die.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2013 / 11:05 pm

      Sickening. Literally — makes me nauseous to read that stuff.

      But the pendulum can swing too far the other way. More than one person has told me, re: this entry, not to show them any more dog execution stories as they can’t bear to read them. These are the same people who have read my accounts of human executions — sometimes quite gruesome, sometimes of people innocent of the crimes they were convicted of — with only a shake of the head or, most often, no comment at all.

  6. Laurie July 30, 2013 / 11:20 pm

    I don’t know what to say, Meaghan, except for this, from John Donne:

    No Man Is An Island

    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself,
    Every man is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
    Or of thine own were:
    Any man’s death diminishes me,
    Because I am involved in mankind,
    And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    It tolls for thee.

  7. Princess Shantae July 31, 2013 / 7:42 am

    Meaghan, your last comment reminded me of something. Remember a couple years ago when there was that terrible accident with the Deep Water Horizon?
    There was a lot of oil spilled in the gulf and a lot of sea birds and fish and such were killed off. I remember seeing a CBS news story about a little girl who was selling paintings of birds ro raise money to help with the cleanup. It was a great thing she was doing.
    But, it also made me sad b/c there were lots of stories like that, about the birds and the fish and the dolphins, but hardly any about the eleven men who died on that oil rig. They showed the bird-painting girl walking on the beach viewing the damage and everytime she’d see a dead bird of one covered with oil she’d say “Not fair! Not fair!” I just wanted to say Honey, fair doesn’t have a thing to do with it, and there’s a bunch of people out there maybe watching you on TV who might love animals just as much as you do but who would happily trade a thousand dolphins if they could have their fathers or their husbands back again.
    It was just so sad all around, and I was sad for the kids who it seemed were able to have so much compassion for animals but didn’t seem to understand the human loss.

    • Meaghan July 31, 2013 / 11:05 am

      A regular commenter on Executed Today has posted to my Newfie Entry: “Why couldn’t we just have a nice drawing-and-quartering or hot pincers execution? Poor sweet Newfie…”

      Yeah, I remember hearing a lot about the ecological devastation, and all the dead animals, but I don’t recall hearing about any human fatalities.

    • Meaghan August 1, 2013 / 12:25 pm

      Well, for the record I have to say Topsy WAS being put down for a reason. It had turned really nasty and become violent and either seriously injured or killed some humans, if I recall right. Electrocution just happened to be the method of euthanization.

  8. Princess Shantae August 1, 2013 / 1:56 pm

    o matter how you feel about animals, if one big as an elephant decides it wants to hurt people or just generally throw a fit, and you don’t live ina time and a place where there’s ppl who can afford to take in exotic animals and keep them in a place they’ve made to look as much like the wild as they can? Well, sorry, Topsy, that’s the end of the line.

    • Meaghan August 1, 2013 / 2:06 pm

      Yeah. One of the men Topsy killed pretty much deserved it — he thought it would be hilarious to feed Topsy a lit cigarette — but the other two, it appears, were just stomped to death because Topsy was pissed off.

      There’s a wonderful reserve in Tennessee, a sanctuary for elephants (and a few rhinos), many of whom have slaved away in circuses and such and been abused, and have behavior problems. Apparently the sanctuary does wonders for rehabilitating them. But such places did not exist in Edison’s time.

  9. Karen Klinesmith Weber August 1, 2013 / 10:35 pm

    As an owner of German shepherds & a huge dog lover this thread is one of those “what has been seen cant be unseen” and made me cry. đŸ˜¦

    • Meaghan August 2, 2013 / 1:25 am

      I have an email list of people I notify when I have an Executed Today story posted (they don’t read either my blog or the ET blog). One of the friends on that list told me to never send her any more dog execution stories again. I told her it was unlikely I’d write another in any case.

    • Meaghan August 3, 2013 / 6:46 pm

      BTW, I found the Flickr that the Newfie picture originated from (I got it off Wikimedia Commons). The photographer said he was vacationing in the Smokies and was out for a walk, carrying bear spray, as he’d been warned there was a black bear in the area. At dusk, this huge black thing came barreling out of the woods and ran up to him and he about died of fright. It was the Newfoundland, a 16-month old 140-pound male, which belonged to the people whose cabin he was renting.

      I can totally see why it would be mistaken for a bear. They’re about the same size, shape and color, and it was in dim light in the woods and he was expecting to see a bear. Presumably he laughed once his heart slowed down and once the dog stopped licking his face.

  10. Princess Shantae August 2, 2013 / 12:59 pm

    See, this is the problem. Its good to feel compassion for animals and not want them to be mistreated. But there is something wrong when you have a whole huge site full of all kinds of different executions and tortures and lynchings and then one day there’s a story about somebody testing electricity on stray dogs and ppl that have we assume followed the site for a while ask you not to do any more dog stories.
    You could say that the dog didn’t kill anybody or rape anybody or be a traitor or a heretic, and that sort of explains it, but there’s plenty of innocent ppl on the ET site but nobody seems to get quite as worked up over humans in general as they do animals.

    • Meaghan August 2, 2013 / 10:49 pm

      You know, in Britain, they created the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals well before the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The first child abuse case in the UK to be prosecuted, they had to use an animal cruelty act to do it, arguing that the little girl was, technically, an animal, since it was not against the law for parents to abuse their children.

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