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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Historical Museum, Handcuffs, & Executions


Dateline: June 19, 1913.

On this day, the press reported that relics of the last execution in Wisconsin were to be given to the State Historical Museum in Madison. They are handcuffs worn by John McCaffry, the last person executed by the state before Wisconsin outlawed the death penalty in 1851, and as brutal a murderer as most on today's TV news. His story is told in a newspaper article in our Local History & Biographies Collection, which you can see online anytime; his handcuffs, however, are only in our Museum . To read information in a newspaper is helpful, but to see or touch the actual objects from a historical event is far more powerful. For young people, especially, to feel connected to their origins and understand how their world fits into a larger context, museum visits cannot be surpassed.

[NOTE, March 2005: This Odd Wisconsin entry prompted us to go looking for the handcuffs that the 1913 article said Sheriff Timme was "planning to forward to the state historical museum at Madison." In fact, the good sheriff reneged, for no such handcuffs are recorded as every having reached us. In 1916, however, we received from an unrecorded source a set of cloth restraints that were used to bind the murderer at the time.]
:: Posted in Strange Deaths on November 12, 2004

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