Nevada, First Gas Chamber !
Bob and Brenda Exploring
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The First Gas Chamber !

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Howard Egan

The ancient Eye for Eye Decree Christ has himself destroyed. Shall Shylocks, in their ghoulish glee Make his commandments void?

Christ taught that we shell turn the other check to a blow, if you lean toward his teachings, and you are a true Christian, you would not kill another being. Guess what, not everyone is a Christian and we do not live by the golden rule. Somewhere back in time the people started to clan together to protect them selves from each other. The clan soon became know as Society, and society has created laws that must be followed, if not we all return to barbarians and the great teachings that removed us from this was wasted.

Voltaire made the statement that law was created by the strong and mighty to be used against the weak and poor. Like the judge of England known as Bloody Jeffries, who could hang a man just for stealing a loaf of bread. Others, older than the rack, was the stake, here a person could be bound and burned slowly and tortuously as a form of execution. There was always to be found a new way to execute those who did not abide by the laws.

As time progressed, humanity started to frown on the way we answered the statement, an eye for an eye. In court it was easy to say, if you take a life, you lose yours, but someone else will have to do it. In Nevada the counties use to take care of their own executions, by hanging or shooting, normally performed by the sheriff. But these ordeals became so gruesome from the lack of picking a bad tree or no one that could shoot straight, that the state finally took over the unwelcome task.

It was Mr. H. L. Bartlett, one of Elko County assemblymen who first became disgusted with the way executions were being carried out. Not caring for the inhuman and brutal methods, he came up with a new method and proposed the use of gas. Now the gas was the better part of his idea, the rest was very impractical. His vision was for a guard to sneak up on a condemned man while he was asleep and perform the operation; kind of in the way a doctor would administer an anesthetic. His approach was never followed, but his activity did however give birth to the method of using gas as a logical way to legally kill, if kill we must.

The first time use of gas as an execution for a capital sentence was on February 8, 1924. The building used was not fitted for such an ordeal being way to large. The gas was pumped into the chamber where the condemned man set in a chair. It turned out to be somewhat of a bungle some affair, but for those who were there to perform it, it was considered satisfactory. The second execution did not fair much better.

In 1929 they started to define the operation by building the first gas chamber fit for the purpose. Then they simplified the use of the gas in order to cut the high cost founded in the earlier operation. The new idea was to use a cord ran through a copper tube under the floor to climb the left leg of the chair and across the seat. The cord supports a small nest of cyanide eggs contained in a bag. When the cord was released the bag was lowered down into a jar filled with sulphuric acid and water, and gas generation begins at once. The whole operation was done and over in less than ten minutes, and the subject was dead.

With everything new that comes about, it always takes some getting use to. So was the new method of execution in Nevada. When the first, that of a Chinaman named, Gee Jon, was carried out, the whole United State went into a furor. The second one, Stanko Jukich, left this world with a smile on his face. Jukich crossed over the great divide in less than a minute and the smile he showed when he entered the chamber was still there after the final examination.

While the newspapers wrote of Nevada's barbaric method and frowned, no one laughed when Arizona took the life of a women. It turned out to be the most revolting ever performed in the United States. By trying to hang the women slayer they jerked the head clean off the torso, this converted Arizona to the Lethal Gas Method. Again back east a man was taken to the gallows and dropped. The fall failed to snap his neck, and he strangled to death, while witnesses watched and gasped as he flopped back and forth before going into the death agony.

The third one to be executed was Bob White and this was broadcast as the feature of the day. This was the case that drew the most attention. White was convicted of murdering Louis Lavell, an Elko gambler. On June 2, 1930 he was executed in the Nevada Gas Chamber at the state prison. During the preliminary preparations, White laughed and conversed with the guards and showed not a trace of fear. Then at the last, when the warden approached him said:

"Bob, is there anything I can do for you?" White with a smile on face looked up and said, "Yes Warden! Let me have a gas mask."

Nevada was to lead the way having the first Gas Chamber at the State Prison in Carson. Soon there after the rest of the states followed suit. They also had the first prehistoric big foot print, also at the prison. Now that is another story to be told.

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