Howard ankle camera

Press cameras were forbidden from the prison execution chamber in Ossining, New York, where Ruth Snyder was to be electrocuted on January 12, 1928, for the murder of her husband. Editors at the New York Daily News believed it their duty to have both a journalist and photographer cover this event. Since all witnesses to the execution would be searched and frisked upon entry to the chamber, the newspaper planned their coverage well in advance.
One month before Snyder's execution, editors in New York enlisted the help of Chicago Tribune photographer Thomas Howard to prepare for their news coverage. Howard, who would not be recognized by New York prison officials, was brought to New York a month before the execution. He stayed in a hotel practising making exposures with this modifyed miniature plate camera. He strapped the camera to his ankle with a long cable release run up his trouser leg into his pants pocket. He lifted the pant leg to take a photograph.
Howard gained entry to witness Snyder's electrocution, achieving a slightly blurred image documenting the horror of the scene. The New York Daily News donated the camera to the Smithsonian in 1963.
Object Name
Howard, Tom
associated institution
New York Daily News
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
Place Made
United States: New York, Ossining
place used
United States: New York, Ossining
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Visitor Comments

7/19/2013 10:13:37 AM
According to an article that ran in the Birmingham News on September 9, 1938, this camera was lent to Howard by Miller Reese Hutchison (better known as the inventor of the Acousticon portable electric hearing aid and the Klaxon horn). Hutchison retained the camera and brought it with him to show to fellow shutterbugs while visiting a friend in Birmingham.,171
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