- Topsy (elephant)
Topsy (born circa 1875, died
January 4, 1903), was a domesticated elephantwith the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island's Luna Park. Because she had killed three men in as many years (including a severely abusive trainer who attempted to feed her a lit cigarette), [cite episode | title = Series E, Episode 2 | series = QI | airdate = 2007-09-21 | season = E | number = 2 ] Topsy was deemed a threat to people by her owners and killed by electrocutionon January 4, 1903. [http://www.railwaybridge.co.uk/topsy.html "Bad elephant killed. Topsy meets quick and painless death at Coney Island," The Commercial Advertiser, New York, Jan. 5, 1903. retrieved Oct. 27, 2006] ] Inventor Thomas Edisoncaptured the event on film. He would release it later that year under the title "Electrocuting an Elephant".
A means of execution initially discussed was
hanging. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animalsprotested and other ways were considered. Edison then suggested electrocution with alternating current, which had been used for the execution of humans since 1890.
To reinforce the execution, Topsy was fed
carrotslaced with 460 grams of potassium cyanidebefore the deadly current from a 6,600- voltAC source was sent coursing through her body. She was dead in seconds. The event was witnessed by an estimated 1,500 people and Edison's film of the event was seen by audiences throughout the United States.
July 20, 2003, a memorial for Topsy was erected at the Coney Island Museum.
Usage in popular works of art
Portions of Edison's film "Electrocuting an Elephant" have appeared in many works of art such as:
A song called "Coney Island Funeral" recorded by the history band
Pinatalandfor their EP "Songs from Konijn Kok" tells the tale of Topsy.
List of historical elephants
War of Currents
Shooting an Elephant
* [http://www.laweekly.com/art+books/wls/topsy-the-elephant/16401/ Fiction: "Topsy the Elephant"] published by The LA Weekly
* [http://www.coneyisland.com/museum.shtml The Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn, NY]
* [http://www.counterpunch.org/hribal12142006.html "When Animals Resist their Exploitation"] by Jason Hribal
* [http://www.roadsideamerica.com/pet/topsy.html Topsy, Electrocuted by Edison]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/americas/3083029.stm New York honours electrocuted elephant] by BBC News
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