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Who Killed Topsy the Elephant?

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Who killed Topsy the elephant?

Who was it that was actually responsible for the death of Topsy the elephant? Was it

Her Captors, Thomas Edison or Topsy the elephant herself that is responsible for her

death. In this essay I will exam some of the historical facts and evidence presented in this

case and try to find out just who is directly responsible for putting this poor mistreated

circus elephant to her death.

Historically Coney Island had been entertaining and delighting its visitors since the

1880s. among some of the amusements in these early years were domesticated elephants.

One of the most famous Coney Island elephants was the six-ton, 10-foot-high Indian

elephant by the name of Topsy. Topsy’s fame is not necessarily due to her rouge circus

life, but rather, her execution in 1903. Topsy the elephant’s owners decided that she was

too much of a liability and a safety issue since she had killed three trainers within three

years. In the years following her death, many have defended the elephant’s violent

behaviors and stated they were due to the poor treatment she was given as well as the

treatment of many early circus animals and what they also received. One of the trainers

Topsy killed was J. Fielding Blunt. Blunt, who was considered drunk at the time, he tried

to feed the animal a lit cigarette before Topsy the elephant in a bit of rage and retaliation

had smashed him to death. Initially, Topsy was going to be hanged but the Society for the

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opposed this idea. Electrocution became the decided

upon form of execution because it was believed to be more humane. The person who

suggested the elephant to be electrocuted? Was the American Wizard known as Thomas

Edison. At this time, Edison was involved in a very public rivalry with George

Westinghouse to prove that his direct current electrical system was superior to any of

Westinghouse’s alternating current. once compared the Edison and

Westinghouse rivalry to that of Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs to give you some ideal.

Edison agreed to handle Topsy’s execution mainly because he wanted the publicity that

would come with it. Edison used Topsy’s execution as a stunt to discourage the use of

AC by showing that it was far more dangerous than his DC. The day of the execution

was on a cloudy January morning, with a crowd of over a thousand people. The New

York Times once called the entire event “a rather inglorious affair.” Topsy was fed

cyanide-laced carrots to make the execution easier. Electrodes covered her body and she

was fitted with copper-lined sandals before an AC current of 6,000 volts killed her

quickly and quietly. Topsy was only 28 years old when she died. Edison and his company

had used many different animals in the past on their electrocution experiments. but

Topsy was officially the largest animal that they had ever used. once summed

up Edison’s experimentation with AC currents in the following way: “In the end, though,

all Edison had to show for his efforts was a string of dead animals, including the

unfortunate Topsy, and a current that quickly fell out of favor as AC demonstrated its

superiority in less lethal ways to become the standard.” In 1944, a fire surged through

Luna Park the part of Coney Island where Topsy spent her last years. The fire was called

“Topsy’s Revenge.” The Coney Island Museum eventually honored Topsy with her own

memorial sculpture on July 20, 2003. Edison filmed Topsy’s execution and released the

footage in late 1903. It is called Electrocuting an Elephant and can still easily be found on

YouTube Today.

But just who is it that is truly responsible for killing Topsy? Some say Topsy the

Elephant was simply a Victim of Her Captors and Not Thomas Edison. But there

are many that also believe that Thomas Edison simply killed Topsy just to prove a

point, but some historians will argue otherwise. Many believe Topsy was simply

a victim of the so-called War of the Currents, the battle between Nikola Tesla and

Thomas Edison over alternating and direct current. “Captured on film by Thomas Edison,

the event was one of a string of animal electrocutions Edison staged to discredit a new

form of electricity: alternating current,” writes Tony Long for the Wired. But some

disagree, saying that Topsy was destined to die anyways, and Edison’s electrocution was

merely seen



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