CLEVELAND - Ohio’s electric chair was used in the execution of 312 men and three women from 1897 to 1963 and now the chair is on display in Cleveland.
It is part of an exhibit on capital punishment at the Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum into November.
“It’s only the second time it’s been on display outside of the penitentiary,” said Bob Cermak, a trustee with the museum. “It’s an idea that the president of our board of trustees came up with, he thought it would be something unique to bring to the Cleveland area.”
Nicknamed “Old Sparky,” the chair was a part of public tours of the Ohio Penitentiary until the 1930s.
William Haas and William Wiley were both killed on the chair's first day of use, April 21, 1897. Haas was 17 years old.
The last person to be executed in the electric chair was Donald Reinbolt in 1963.
After the chair was decommissioned, the Ohio Historical Society took possession of it and stored it.
It stayed in storage until they put it on display last year.
“We’re not here to talk about the right and the wrong or the good and the bad of the death penalty,” said Cermak. “We’re here to talk about the history of a part of what has gone on not only in the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio but the world.”
Cleveland had public executions on Public Square. A section of the exhibit is dedicated to the hanging of William Adin in 1876.
Adin killed three women, two with a hammer and one, his wife, with an ax.
“The sheriff used to sell tickets to the hangings,” Cermak said. A framed display contains an original ticket, a newspaper clipping of the execution, a picture of Adin and his victims.
Cermak said research showed a man, not the city, owned the gallows and took them around to five local counties to assist with the executions.
In 1983, WEWS reporter Alan DePetro did a series of reports on the death penalty. Two of those segments on the electric chair are part of the display. Click here to link to his stories.
The display at the Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum opened Monday and is free to the public. The museum operates weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located on the first floor of Cleveland Police headquarters at 1300 Ontario Street.
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