The electrocution of Topsy the Elephant

++++contains scenes of animal cruelty++++++++

When I cam across this story I didn’t know what to think of it except for, no matter at what angle you look at it ,this is cruelty.

Topsy was born in the wild around 1875 in Southeast Asia and was captured soon after by elephant traders. Adam Forepaugh, owner of the Forepaugh Circus, had the elephant secretly smuggled into the United States with plans that he would advertise the baby as the first elephant born in America.

At the time Forepaugh Circus was in competition with the Barnum & Bailey Circus over who had the most and largest elephants. The name “Topsy” came from a slave girl character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Topsy the Elephant gained notoriety in America as part of the Forepaugh Circus when she killed a spectator in 1902 and was subsequently sold off to Luna Park. After this her reputation worsened, partly because of her alcoholic handler and the decision of her owners Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy to exploit her for PR purposes.

To this end they decided to execute her. Their horrific original plan to hang her at the park was stopped by the SPCA. Instead they decided to electrocute her, which they did in front of press, and a camera crew from Edison Manufacturing movie company filmed the incident – possibly the first filmed death of an animal.

It is arguably the most famous animal execution ever. It received national coverage in the newspapers, and the Edison Manufacturing Co. sent a film crew to document it.

The execution, chiefly by electrocution, has since been the subject of articles, books, and television documentaries, and in recent times has become something of a cause célèbre. These days it is usually erroneously portrayed as a key moment in the so-called “Battle of the Currents” between Edison’s direct current system and the Westinghouse-Tesla alternating current system, the outcome of which (a victory for Westinghouse) would determine the course of electrification world-wide.

The execution was listed in the Edison catalog as:

“Topsy, the famous “Baby” elephant, was electrocuted at Coney Island on January 4, 1903. We secured an excellent picture of the execution. The scene opens with keeper leading Topsy to the place of execution. After copper plates or electrodes were fastened to her feet, 6,600 volts of electricity were turned on. The elephant is seen to become rigid, throwing her trunk in the air, and then is completely enveloped in smoke from the burning electrodes. The current is cut off and she falls forward to the ground dead.”

The title of the short move of the execution was “Electrocuting an Elephant”

This is the actual footage of the electrocution. I am only posting this to show how delusional the people were(including animal protection agencies), thinking that this was acceptable.

While Edison had nothing to do with the decision to euthanize Topsy and took no part in the proceedings, the SPCA’s understanding of electrocution as a humane means of dispatching animals was certainly influenced by experiments Edison and his associates had made at his West Orange Laboratory during the late 1880s. Edison was prompted to conduct experiments on animals after SPCA founder Henry Bergh, Jr., contacted him to ask whether electrocution might provide a humane way of killing unwanted animals. During these experiments, Edison and his assistants electrocuted a number of animals, chiefly dogs provided by the SPCA.

The cruel act became notorious later on as the subject of an urban legend that Thomas Edison had ordered the elephant electrocuted in order to prove the danger of alternating current electricity during the War of Currents. This is false – the war between AC and DC took place ten years before the death of Topsy and Edison was never at Luna Park.

The execution took place on a dreary Jan. 4. 1903. Because nobody had ever electrocuted an elephant before, they decided to make sure the act would be completed with a combination of poisoning, strangulation and electrocution. Topsy was fed carrots laced with potassium cyanide, and her feet were placed in conductive copper sandals so she could be electrocuted.

Just how many people came out to witness Topsy’s execution is a matter of dispute. The newspaper accounts vary from several thousand to 1,500 to “only persons immediately concerned and reporters.” Had Edison been present, the newspapers would certainly have made note of it, but none even mentioned him at all. However many spectators there were, Edison was not among them.

Thankfully we have moved on from that era. or have we?

sources

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0231523/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/topsy-elephant-was-victim-her-captors-not-really-thomas-edison-180961611/

https://www.onthisday.com/photos/topsy-the-elephant-is-electrocuted

http://edison.rutgers.edu/topsy.htm

Mary ,the murderous elephant

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Mary was a five-ton Asian elephant, also known as Murderous Mary, who performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. After killing a trainer in Kingsport, Tennessee, she was hanged in 1916. Her death is sometimes interpreted as a cautionary tale of circus animal abuse during the early 20th century.

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On September 12, 1916, a hobo named Walter Eldridge, nicknamed Red because of his rusty-colored hair, was hired as an assistant elephant trainer by the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. A drifter who had been with the circus only a day, he had no experience of handling elephants, but the only qualification required was the ability to wield an ‘elephant stick’ — a rod with a sharp spear at one end. Eldridge led the elephant parade riding on the top of Mary’s back; Mary was the star of the show, riding at the front. There have been several accounts of his death. One, recounted by W.H. Coleman who claimed to be a witness, is that he prodded her behind the ear with a hook after she reached down to nibble on a watermelon rind. She went into a rage, snatched Eldridge with her trunk, threw him against a drink stand and stepped on his head, crushing it.

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As the terrified spectators screamed and fled, a local blacksmith shot Mary with a pistol, unloading five rounds of ammunition into her thick hide to little effect. She stood still, suddenly calm again and seemingly oblivious both to the bullets and the commotion as the townsfolk encircled her with chants of “Kill the elephant, kill the elephant!”.

The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to kill the elephant in public. It was decided to hang the elephant by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane. On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, Mary was transported by rail to Unicoi County, Tennessee, where a crowd of over 2,500 people (including most of the town’s children) assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard.

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As she was led to the railway yard, Mary was followed by the circus’s other four elephants, each entwining their trunk in the tail of the animal in front just as they had done on countless parades. Charlie Sparks hoped that their presence would keep her compliant but, as a chain was placed around her neck at the “scaffold”, they trumpeted mournfully to her and he feared that she might try to run away. To stop this happening, one of her legs was tethered to a rail. No one thought to release it as the derrick whirred into action and, as she was hoisted into the air, there was an awful cracking noise, the sound of her bones and ligaments snapping under the strain. She had been raised no more than five feet when the chain around her neck broke, dropping her to the ground and breaking her hip.

The industrial crane was powered up again and this time Mary was raised high in the air, her thick legs thrashing and her agonized shrieks and grunts audible even over the laughter and cheers of those watching below. Finally she fell silent and hung there for half an hour before a local vet declared her dead. Her gruesome end is recorded in a photograph so horrifically surreal that some have suggested it must be a fake — but, all too sadly, its authenticity has been confirmed by other reports and photographs taken at the time.