Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edisonbuy Topsy on Amazon.com
Topsy the elephant was innocent!
In a tale that interweaves the electrocution of a gentle giant with the electrification of America and the rise of the big top circus, Topsy by Michael Daly reports that the elephant of the title was not the serial man-killer portrayed by those seeking to justify her wrongful execution. The book also discredits the myth that her electrocution at Luna Park in Coney Island in 1903 was part of Thomas Edison's fight for supremacy over George Westinghouse in the War of Currents. The Great Wizard had already lost that epic battle.
Topsy details the ill-fated elephant's death and a life blighted by struggles between historic giants of the human herd. The book recounts how Topsy was smuggled into America as a baby during the raucous competition between the irrepressible P.T. Barnum and the ruthless Adam Forepaugh for circus supremacy and how she met her end after the bitter fight between a desperate Edison and a resolute Westinghouse.
The electrocution was for Edison a means to vent his fury and frustration over his defeat, as well as an opportunity to film the first death of any kind. Electrocuting an Elephant is on YouTube and present day viewers can note her docility to the very end.
Topsy had in truth killed just once and only after decades of torment that culminated with a circus follower throwing a lit cigar in her mouth. Her subsequent owners found her to be not so much a danger as an inconvenience.
The human heroes of Topsy are two enlightened trainers who proved that kindness achieves more than cruelty. The book's other figures from circus history include a refreshments vendor who was caught short of water during a rush and grabbed a tub where a rider was soaking a pair of pink tights. The result was the first pink lemonade.
Published by Atlantic Monthly. Available July 2, 2013 P.T. Barnum, the one and only. The Wizard in his laboratory. Bill Snyder, trainer and hater of the ill-fated Sid, with Hattie at the elephant quarters in Central Park. Topsy's Final moment, the smoke rising from the electrodes attached to her feet.