Topsy, the Electrocuted Elephant

Today is the anniversary of the day when the elephant, Topsy, was electrocuted by Thomas Edison in New York in 1903 before a crowd of 1,500 spectators, who each paid 10 cents to watch. Topsy was an Asian elephant who became a dangerous embarrassment to one of America’s first amusement parks on Coney Island. Tormented and abused, she killed people through no fault of her own. Edison also wanted to prove that direct current was safer than alternating current (the alternative promoted by his rival, George Westinghouse) and thereby win the battle to electrify America. Topsy was murdered because expediency and spectacle conspired with power and profit.

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