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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Public hanging

Public hanging

I found the negative in a cigar box that was tossed into a dumpster in Portland, Oregon. I have no idea of the history. View full size.

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Another version of the history of this hanging...


This was the 24th execution in Colorado:

NICOLAI FEMENELLA (a.k.a. Mike George). August 23, 1888. Buena Vista (Chaffee County). W-W. Hanging/Broken neck. An Italian immigrant, Femenella was convicted of murdering Irishman William “Pat” Casey, who, like Femenella, was employed as a railroad section hand in the city of Granite. The murder resulted from a quarrel between several Irish and Italian immigrants about the men’s different ethnic heritages. After his conviction, Femenella began to claim that he killed in self-defense, a plea that may have saved him from the gallows had he originally used it at trial.387 Governor Alva Adams deferred the execution on three occasions. “According to prevalent opinion here Femenella has received more consideration than would be accorded to the majority of lifelong citizens in this community.”388 Approximately seventy-five people were admitted to the jail yard to witness the hanging, and a “large crowd” mingled outside the jail fence. He was hanged with rope left over from that ordered from a St. Louis company to hang Andrew Green (q.v.).389

Cigar box?

You found this photo in a cigar box in a dumpster??? That's odd...that photo might be worth something. I would keep it and frame it, it's a piece of history.


Seems like an awfully big and heavy structure for a single hanging. Surely the forces sufficient to snap his neck would not have been anywhere near sufficient to need all those 2x8s, braces, and so on. Of course, lumber was cheap....

Building on the old gym news story...

The Chaffee County Courthouse and Jail Buildings are now a museum.

at the bottom of the page:

The large room at the top of the stairs was once the heart of this venerable old building. This courtroom was the scene of many exciting cases. The fate of Nicolo Ferminello, an Italian accused of stabbing a man to death, was decided here. He was sentenced to die for his crime and his is Chaffee County's only "legal" hanging. He was hanged at the back of the jail complex. The room, which is now available for rental, has the original judge's bench and chair.

notice the use of scare quotes around legal hanging...

Some history

Here is a link to a story that mentions this event in passing:

"In 1888, the first legal hanging was held in this area behind the courthouse. This was the hanging of Nicolo Feminella, who was convicted of the murder of a fellow miner. A lot of history has evolved in this area and in the old McGinnis Gym."

Newspaper article

Chaffee County Times, Colorado

In 1888, the first legal hanging was held in this area behind the courthouse. This was the hanging of Nicolo Feminella, who was convicted of the murder of a fellow miner.

Maybe around Denver?

I googled the name, came up with very little except the name showing up twice in the undigized list of the Denver Public Library. There is a town in Colorado called Buena Vista.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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