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Topsy the Elephant

Topsy the Elephant ( c. 1875 - January 4, 1903) was a member of a domesticated herd at Coney Island's Luna Park. She had been a part of the Forepaugh Circus previously. Topsy was deemed an ill-tempered and dangerous animal in that she killed three men in as many years, the last being an abusive trainer who tried to feed her a lit cigarette. For this reason, her owners decided to put her to death. Cyanide poisoning failed, and a proposal of hanging was abandoned after ASPCA protests. Thomas Edison suggested electrocution, using the Westinghouse alternating current system of electricity transmission, which Edison, a backer of direct current argued was more dangerous. The ASPCA found this suggestion acceptable, viewing electrocution as a more humane form of killing. Electrocution killed Topsy quickly. Edison recorded the execution with a motion picture camera, and showed his film to audiences around the country, as part of his unsuccessful attempt to discredit AC.

A memorial for Topsy was placed in the Coney Island Museum on July 20th, 2003

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