Funeral is Held for Namesake of Infamous Execution Machine - 1814

Mar 28, 2014 - 0 Comments

by Michael Thomas Barry

On this date in crime history - March 28, 1814, the funeral of Joseph-Ignance Guillotin, the namesake but not the inventor of the infamous execution device, takes place outside of Paris, France. Guillotin, a member of the General Assembly had what he felt were the purest motives for proposing the use of the device. The machine was intended to show the intellectual and social progress of the French Revolution; by killing aristocrats and journeymen the same way, equality in death was ensured. 

The first use of the guillotine was on April 25 1792, when Nicolas Pelletier was put to death for armed robbery and assault in Place de Greve. The newspapers reported that guillotine was not an immediate sensation. The crowds seemed to miss the gallows at first. However, it quickly caught on with the public and many thought it brought dignity back to the executioner. However, the prestige of the guillotine fell precipitously due to its frequent use in the French Terror following the Revolution. It became the focal point of the awful political executions and was so closely identified with the terrible abuses of the time that it was perceived as partially responsible for the excesses itself. The association with the guillotine so embarrassed Dr. Guillotin's family that they petitioned the French government to rename it; when the government refused, they instead changed their own family name. By coincidence, a person named Guillotin was indeed executed by the guillotine, he was J.M.V. Guillotin, a doctor of Lyons. This coincidence may have contributed to erroneous statements that Guillotin was put to death on the machine that bears his name; however, in reality, Guillotin died in Paris on March 26, 1815 of natural causes, and was buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Still, the execution device was used sporadically in France into the 20th century.  


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the authors website for more information:

His book can be purchased at Amazon through the following link:     

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