The Execution of Ruth Snyder

On March 13, 1927, Ruth Snyder, a Queens housewife, and her lover Judd Gray, a corset salesman, murdered Ruth's husband Albert, the art editor of Motor Boating magazine. After a sensational trial, the duo was sentenced to death.
On January 12, 1928, Ruth (33) became the second woman who went to the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in New York. She wore an unpressed brown cotton smock, grey skirt and slippers. Her wrists were strapped to the chair arms and the leather helmet was adjusted to her head. The leg electrode was carefully attached underneath her skirt. The mask was lowered, and the executioner threw the switch. Ruth's legs strained back against the chair, arms went stiff against the fastenings, while her chest rose and fell. Thomas Howard, a Daily News photographer and one of the official witnesses had a camera strapped to his leg and he took the photograph of Ruth at the moment she was dying. When Ruth finally died, the straps were undone. Her body fell limply onto the white enameled stretcher, with gaping mouth and protruding tongue, and was taken to the autopsy room.
The day after the execution, Daily News had the front page filled by the enlarged picture showing Ruth at the moment of her death. The picture was such a hit that the News had to run off an additional 750,000 copies.
The state attempted to prosecute Howard and the newspaper, but nothing ever came of it. For many years afterwards witnesses to executions were searched and asked to hold up their hands so they could not operate hidden cameras.

RUTH SNYDER'S DEATH PICTURED! - This is perhaps the most remarkable exclusive picture in the history of criminology. It shows the actual scene in the Sing Sing death house as the lethal current surged through Ruth Snyder's body at 11:?? last night. Her helmeted head is stiffened in death, her face masked and an electrode strapped to her bare right leg. The autopsy table on which her body was removed is beside her. Judd Gray, mumbling a prayer, followed her down the narrow corridor at 11:11. "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing!" were Ruth's last words. The picture is the first Sing Sing execution picture and first of a woman's electrocution.

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