Nast's Santa Claus

Thomas Edison is the archetype of the American inventor-entrepreneur. He held a prodigious number of patents, and his inventions include the phonograph and the electric light bulb. He was heavily invested in electricity, specifically direct current(DC). He faced formidable competition from George Westinghouse and his advocacy of alternating current (AC). The competition was fierce and brought out the worst in Edison. Edison sought to discredit Westinghouse and AC electric current, and his tactic was to prove how deadly AC was. Edison had various animals electrocuted to prove his point, including a dog and an elephant. At the same time, a New Yorker, Alfred Southwick, was advocating for a more humane method of executing condemned prisoners, and decided electricity was the humane alternative. Southwick took his notion to Edison, who referred him to Westinghouse, but Westinghouse refused to be associated with the project. The state of New York commissioned one Harold Brown to construct an electric chair. The project was secretly funded by Thomas Edison, who hoped that the association of execution with alternating current would discredit in favor of Edison’s preferred direct current. The first execution was badly botched, but nonetheless electrocution became a common method of execution. Westinghouse and his AC won the competition for which form would dominate American electricity.

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