The guillotine is most famous for its role during the Reign of Terror in the 1790s, but did you know that it was used by the French government to execute criminals until 1981?
Other governments have used it, too, including (for a time) the Third Reich.
Jean-Baptiste Tropmann, a notorious French murderer, was executed by guillotine in 1870. You can read about his crimes here.
Image: Exécution de Jean-Baptiste Tropmann. Source: Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée. Via Réunion des musées nationaux et du Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées.
In 1925 Ruth Snyder a housewife from Queens New York decided to have her husband killed by his would-be replacement her boyfriend, Henry Judd Gray, a corset salesman. Together the pair planned her husband’s, Albert’s death, but not before Ruth talked her husband into signing a life insurance policy that would pay off extra if he were attacked and died by an act of violence. Ruth and Henry, neither of whom were exactly well read, tried various methods of disposing of poor Albert, but finally gave up when he began to become difficult to handle. The couple garroted Albert and when they failed to kill him quickly enough they stuffed rags soaked in chloroform up his nose. After Albert died in agonizing death, the couple tried to make the place seem as if it had been broken into, but the cops didn’t buy it. Cornered, the pair told on one another and both received the death penalty. Ruth Snyder was among few women to have ever been put on the death by electrocution, a far more merciful death than Albert Snyder experienced.
Tom Howard, the man who got the famous photograph of her exeuction, posed as a writer, arrived early in Sing Sing Prison and took up a vantage position. A miniature camera was strapped to his left ankle, the shutter release button was concealed within his jacket. As Snyder’s body shook from the jolt, Howard hoisted his pant leg and secretly snapped with a one-use camera.