Pioneers in Amusement, Electricity & Abuse


Today in History, January 4: 1903 – Captured as a child in Southeast Asia, then smuggled to America and sold into slavery. Ironically named after a character from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, Topsy was forced to perform for crowds in a circus. On one occasion, a drunken spectator found his way into her tent and tormented her…teased her and burned her with his cigar…and ended up dead when she defended herself. Her owners took the opportunity to label her as a killer as advertising. When another incident occurred, they sold her to a menagerie at Coney Island. Her trainer, also a drunk, stuck her with a pitchfork while trying to make her work and was confronted by a police officer who objected (damned cops). The trainer, in anger, set her loose to rampage through Coney Island and later rode her to the police station to batter at the entrance. Through the fault of her captors, Topsy had by now gained such a bad reputation that she couldn’t even be given away. So her captors made even more money…advertising her execution. On this date, monitored by the ASPCA, she was fed poisoned carrots, then wired up and electrocuted by the Edison Electric Company (who also filmed the video below to commemorate the event). To make sure she was dead, ropes pulled by steam engines then strangled Topsy the elephant for 10 minutes. Ain’t we proud?

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