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Jan. 4, 1903: Tommy Edison Seeks out and fries Topsy the Elephant

Topsy belonged to the Forepaugh Circus and spent the last years of her life 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), Topsy was deemed a threat to people by her owners and killed by electrocution on January 4, 1903, at the age of 28.

Inventor Thomas Edison captured the event on film. He would release it later that year under the title Electrocuting an Elephant. A means of killing initially discussed was hanging. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals protested and other ways were considered. Edison then suggested electrocution with alternating current, which had been used for the execution of humans since 1890

Topsy was fed carrots laced with 460 grams of potassium cyanide before the deadly current from a 6,600-volt AC 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.

When Luna Park burned down in 1944, the fire was referred to as “Topsy’s Revenge”

Article From Wired

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This entry was posted on January 4, 2012 by in Crime, Film, History, Science.
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