18th century Chinese matchlock musket.
Fun History Fact,
While Thomas Edison was a great inventor, his son Thomas Edison Jr. grew up to be a con artist who sold dubious quack medical devices.
Thomas Edison and the Electric Chair,
In the late 1800’s a war was being fought between the famous inventor Thomas Edison and the famous industrialist George Westinghouse. Called the “War of the Currents” the event was a series of marketing schemes created to determine who would supply electricity to the United States. Thomas Edison espoused the use of direct current (DC), while George Westinghouse pushed the idea of alternating current (AC), a new form of electric current developed by the inventor Nikola Tesla. Thomas Edison was at a great disadvantage and he knew it. Alternating current was much more efficient than direct current. More importantly alternating current could be transported over vast distances. Direct current could only be transported a few miles at best. The powering of New York City alone would require scores of coal fired electricity plants placed throughout the city, whereas with alternating current a network of plants could power an entire region of the country. It was clear that if America wanted electricity, it was going to have to use alternating current.
This left Edison in quite a quandary as he was growing wealthy on the royalties made off of his direct current inventions. To compete with Westinghouse, Edison started a fervent marketing campaign to convince the American public that alternating current was an unsafe form of power. In the late 1880’s Edison held a nationwide campaign of live demonstrations where he electrocuted animals using a Westinghouse AC generator. This included dogs, cats, cattle, horses, and rabbits. He even electrocuted a circus elephant named “Topsy” who had killed three handlers at Coney Island. However it was on August 6th, 1890 that Edison would have the greatest demonstration of the dangers of AC power.
In the 1880’s the State of New York was searching for a new way to execute prisoners that was more humane than the standard hanging or firing squad. Pushed by Edison, Alfred P. Southwick, a member of the committee to investigate new execution methods, proposed the idea of using electricity to do the job. He cited a case where a man was instantly killed after touching exposed power lines. The proposal was granted approval for testing, and Edison commissioned two of his employees, Harold P. Brown and Arthur Kennelly, to construct the execution device. Along with Southwick, the two men constructed a chair in which the condemned could be restrained, while electrodes would deliver lethal electric shocks to the brain, killing the prisoner instantly. At least that was the theory.
The first man condemned to die by the newfangled electric chair was William Kemmler, who had been convicted of murdering his wife with a hatchet. On August 6th, 1890 Kemmler was strapped down into the chair and hooked up with electrodes which were connected to a Westinghouse AC generator. It was believed that the electric current would kill Kemmler instantly, as the electrodes were used to successfully kill a horse the day before. Unfortunately Kemmler was no horse and the Edison men had no clue what they were doing.
The electrician gave Kemmler a 17 second, 1,000 volt blast. After much convulsing Kemmler was still alive, making a chilling groaning sound as he slumped in the chair with fluids running out of his mouth. The electrician then upped the power to 2,000 volts giving him a more sustained shock. Blood vessels ruptured, his hair singed, and his flesh burned where the electrodes were connected. Witnesses were forced to vacate the room because of the overwhelming smell of burning hair and flesh. Amazingly, though cooked, Kemmler was still alive as a doctor found he had a pulse. By that point steam was rising from his mouth and smoke from his nostrils. The electrician once again upped the voltage to 3,000 volts, delivering one last fatal jolt that caught his clothes on fire, but finally ended Kemmler’s life In all the execution lasted eight agonizing minutes.
The news of the execution hit the newspapers immediately. All over the country journalists condemned the electric chair as an instrument of torture, barbarity, and inhumanity. George Westinghouse himself commented, “they would have done better using an axe”. Thomas Edison got exactly what he wanted, as the American public shied away from the use of alternating current after the botched execution. However, Edison’s victory was very short lived. Despite the seeming danger, only alternating current was cheap and efficient enough to power the growing industrial nation. Eventually alternating current would come to dominate the energy industry, driving Edison out of business and making Westinghouse one of the great captains of industry. Today we would not have the amenities and standard of living that we take for granted without AC power. Despite the horrifically botched execution of William Kemmler, the electric chair would become the number one method of execution in the United States. By the 1980’s the electric chair gave way to lethal injection as America’s method of choice for execution. Today electrocution is a secondary option in a handful of southern states, only done by request of the prisoner. Incredibly, the last man to die by electric chair so far is Robert Gleason, who was executed in Virginia on January 6th, 2013.
Kabul shopowner Sher Mohammed has pretty good business selling replica jazail muskets to US service members, who often buy them as souvenirs. He typically sells 2 or 3 a day.
Double barrel flintlock pistol with folding bayonet presented by King George III to Sir Henry Clinton, commander of British Forces during the American Revolution. Pistol crafted by Robert Wogdon of London in 1760.
Unique Spanish made “Galand copy” revolver with ivory grips, made in Spain, mid to late 19th century.
The 13th Battalion Ceremonial Guard was formed to honour the history of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (W.R.) and to help celebrate one of Canada’s oldest and still active pre-confederation infantry regiments.
The members of the 13th Bn CG or Hamilton’s “Old 13th” are not “Re-enactors”. All are current serving members of the Canadian Army with the RHLI, and whose primary duties are with the Rifle Companies. The 13th Bn CG remains a secondary duty. Many of the Soldiers of the Guard, while maintaining their regular duties and year round present day Infantry Training are also Infantry Instructors at both the 31 Canadian Brigade Group, Battle School and the 4th Canadian Division Training Center. Many have served in Afghanistan, Bosnia and on other U.N. and NATO Overseas Missions, as well as many Domestic Operations within Canada. The only major historical discrepancy of note is that as the uniform that the Guard wears is an authorized Dress Uniform for our Regiment, we must wear our modern day Medals, Campaign Stars , Citations and Decorations. Sometimes we forget and wear our watches too. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) was gazetted on December 11th, 1862 as the 13th Battalion of Volunteer Militia (Infantry) Canada and is now commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gary M. McQueen, B.A.SC., MBA, P.ENG., CD.
The RHLI 13th Bn CG was stood up in 2008 with the kind permission of the Commanding Officer and is supported by the XIII Regimental Foundation. The Guard wears the uniform, carries the weapons and performs the foot, rifle and tactical drills of the period when the Regiment was first formed in 1862.
An ornate engraved and gold inlaid percussion muzzleloading double barrel shotgun with carved stock. Signed “G.F. Spicker”, Germany, circa 1850.
ab. 1624 Jacob Jordaens - Portrait of a Man
Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870),
A Texas lawyer, politician, land baron, and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, Samuel Augustus Maverick was one of the wealthiest land barons of the mid 1800’s. One of his most notable business practices was that he never branded his own cattle, believing the process to be too painful for the animals. He also had little interest in his heard as his wealth came from real estate and stock trading. Thus he did little to keep track of his own herd and cared little if some may be reclaimed by other cattle herders.
As a result of Maverick’s cattle lacking brands, other cattleman and cowboys of the area began to call all unmarked cattle that did not belong to the heard “Mavericks”. Over time, the term became popular across the country, referring to a person who is independently minded.
'Twas a Famous Victory'
Edward Richard Taylor (British, 1838–1912)
Oil on canvas, 79.3 x 121.8 cm, 1883.
Birmingham Museums Trust.