Friday, October 5, 2007

Old State Penitentiary, Rawlins WY

We were 149 miles west of Cheyenne when we came across signs saying - come, visit our historical state prison, or some such thing. As we hadn't visited any prisons yet, we just HAD to stop in the city of Rawlins.


Here are some of the more noted inmates.

Samuel Barry, Murder 2nd degree

Thomas Madden, Grand Larceny

John C. Conway, Murder 2nd degree

William Henry Wagner, Grand Larceny

Lawrence Harford, Manslaughter


Cells where permitted to be painted any color the inmates chose.


The cell blocks.

Guards cat walk across from the second level of cells.

When new cells were added, it was decided they would hold three prisoners each. For various reasons, mostly fighting, they found this didn't work. So, the cells were converted into more general use areas, such as a barber shop, below, and a library.

The Library


The white spots in this cell show how tooth paste was used as a substitute for glue to attach items to the walls.


The showers were hated. The prison opened in 1888, and there was no hot in the building until the 1960's.


One inmate was an artist and was permitted to paint the mess hall.


These are the death row cells.

Death row inmates had the dubious privilege of one man showers, even if they had no hot water or privacy.


The next two pictures show the process of execution by hanging. On the second floor, the prisoner would step in the middle of the square on the floor with the noose around his neck. His weight would activate a water valve under the floor that would slowly drain a reservoir tank. When the water was drained from the tank, the trap door would be released by the supporting post being pulled from beneath the trap door. In essence, the prisoner hung himself, relieving the executioner from that duty.

The slightly discolored grey 'box' on the floor is the trap door. On the wall are pictures of all that were executed by hanging.

This photo shows the trap door from below with the supporting post in place. The tank drains which pulls the cable to dislodge the post.


Hydrocyanic-acid gas was used for the execution when the chamber was first tested
... with a pig (not pictured).

Well, maybe!


This photo was taken from the 'exercise' yard.


1 comment:

Kevin said...

awesome photos, since I should have spent most of my life in one, I enjoy looking at old penitenteries. Instead I joined the Navy. Lou, send me your phone number I need to call you. No wonder you're not answering your e-mails, you're not home.