Remembering Topsy the Elephant

By | Jan 4, 2012

At the turn of the 20th Century all kinds of attractions were to be found at Coney Island in New York. One of those attractions were elephants and Topsy was a three-ton tusker who was one of those attractions. She also had been use to build some of the attractions due to her great strength.

But Topsy had killed three men in just the previous years, including a drunken trainer who had tried to feed her a lit cigarette.

It was decided that Topsy was a danger and should be put to death. The original thought was to hang the elephant, but that was determined to be cruel. Since 1890 New York had been using the Electric Chair and it had all but replaced the gallows.

It was decided to put her to death by electrocution. On January 4, 1903 after being fed carrots laced with cyanide she was electrocuted.

Thomas Edison used this as part of his “War of Currents” to show that AC was more dangerous than his DC in electric distribution. He also filmed the event.

1500 people as well as the film crew witnessed the event live. Thousands saw the film that was distributed by Edision’s Film Company.

Warning: This is the film of the actual event.


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