Topsy the Elephant electricution

CONEY ISLAND – At 1:30 PM on the 4th of January 1903, a crowd was gathered in New York Luna Park in Coney Island to see the wonder of electricity in action: the technology that was yet to enter the everyday lives was to kill a female Asian Elephant.

By the day of her execution, Topsy had killed 3 people, the latest in 1902 in Brooklyn. Topsy set out on her murderous path in 1900 by killing two zookeepers: the first one in Waco, TX, the second one in Paris, Texas. In Brooklyn, her victim was J.Fielding Blunt of Fort Wayne, Ind., presumably because he had fed her a lighted cigarette.

News of Topsy’s attack on clerk Louis Dondero in Kingston, NY (Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, June 6, 1902) was the last straw for circus manager Lewis Sells. He decided to get rid of Topsy. 

The execution was in the works for a whole half-year. The first plan of the zoo’s management to hang Topsy at the park and charge admission were stopped by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), who claimed that this method of execution was unnecessarily cruel.  

Topsy, standing in the middle of press photographers and on-lookers, refusing to cross the bridge over the lagoon to the spot where she was supposed to be killed.

Rumor has it that it was Thomas Edison himself who persuaded SPCA to agree to electricity being used. He wanted to prove that the technology of electrical transmission that his firm possessed was far superior to those used by his competitors in what became known as the “Battle of the Currents”. Even though Edison’s participation in the elephant affair is not proven, it is documented that during the late 1880s he and his associates experimented with electricity on dogs in their West Orange laboratory, which led to canine deaths.

It is also worth noting that Thomas Edison played no role in the direction of the Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of Brooklyn, which under the supervision of electrician P. D. Sharkey provided technical assistance and 6,600 volts of power relayed from new General Electric AC generators in nearby Bay Ridge for the execution in 1903.

Either way, it was decided that using electricity for the execution was a human thing to do. However, since there was no data on how easy it would be to execute an animal this size with the currents, it was decided to foolproof the execution with poison. Topsy was fed carrots with potassium cyanide, and her feet were placed in conductive copper sandals for efficiency.

1899 poster for the combined Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Circus featuring acrobats’ “Terrific flights over ponderous elephants”

The ordeal was filmed using another fledgling technology and is known as “Electrocuting an Elephant”, which by the way has 3.1/10 stars on IMDB.

Once Topsy had her last breath, Hubert H. Vogelsang who had paid for the elephant’s remains in advance, started butchering her. The New York Times reported that her head was sent to a taxidermist to have a trophy head made, the body organs were sent to Princeton’s Department of Biology, and it was expected to make umbrella stands from her feet.

Luna Park Coney Island 1903

The original main entrance of Luna Park on Coney Island as it appeared at the park’s opening in May 1903.

This is what The New York Times published the next day: “Topsy, the big, man-killing elephant at Luna Park, Coney Island, paid the death penalty at the park yesterday by the agency of a heavy electric current and 400 grains of cyanide of potassium.” 

By the time of her death, Topsy was 36 years old, of which she had spent 28 in the USA. She weighed 6 tonnes and was 10 feet in height, 19 feet 2 inches long.

NEWS

Deadly Legionnaires’ Outbreak Traced to Harlem High-Rise: City
New York Trib
A Legionnaires' Disease outbreak that sickened dozens of people in Harlem and Washington Heights, killing one, is under control and officials have identified its source, the city Health Department announced
Some Subway Platforms Are Literally 100 Degrees Hot
New York Trib
On Thursday, August 9, 2018, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) sent out an intrepid task force of staff and interns to measure the temperature in the city’s ten busiest subway
A Shoe-Sized Oyster Found in the Hudson River
New York Trib
It is not uncommon to find wild oysters in the river, but it is rare to find one that has survived long enough, an estimated ten to fifteen years, to
Cuomo Announces DMV Using New Technology to Crack Down on Underage Drinking
New York Trib
The new pilot program is supported by new technology developed by New York-based company. New York is the first state in the nation to pilot the program.
Wall Partially Collapsed Inside 3 WTC, Person injured, FDNY on the Scene
New York Trib
FDNY personnel has clarified that they are investigating the 46th floor of the 3 World Trade Center for a possible construction accident. Firefighters report that a worker suffered a leg
New Manhattan D.A.’s Office Policy: No Prosecution for Possession or Smoking of Marijuana
New York Trib
The policy is expected to reduce Manhattan marijuana prosecutions from approximately 5,000 per year to fewer than 200 per year, a 96% reduction.
Window Washers Rescued From United Nations Building in Manhattan, FDNY Says
New York Trib
First responders were called to 405 E. 42nd St., which houses the United Nations' headquarters, just after 11:25 a.m. The workers were stuck at the top floor of the 39-floor
Deadly Legionnaires’ Outbreak Traced to Harlem High-Rise: City
New York Trib
A Legionnaires' Disease outbreak that sickened dozens of people in Harlem and Washington Heights, killing one, is under control and officials have identified its source, the city Health Department announced
Leader of International Drug Money Laundering Organization Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison
New York Trib
Jesus Rodriguez-Jimenez Laundered over $250 Million for Central American Drug Trafficking Organizations
NYU Professor Found Responsible for Inappropriate Physical Contact, Sexual Texting
New York Trib
An investigation found Professor of German and Comparative Literature Avital Ronell responsible for “inappropriate physical contact” and sending sexual texts to former graduate student.
Bicyclist Killed by Garbage Truck on Central Park West
New York Trib
Australian woman, was hit and killed by a garbage truck on Central Park West between 66th and 67th Street while riding a bike on Friday afternoon.
Head of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs Will Host a Trump Fundraiser
New York Trib
Howard Lorber, the executive chairman of New York City hot dog icon Nathan’s Famous, will host a fundraiser on Friday for President Donald Trump, Bloomberg reports.
Police Shoot, Injure Teen They Say Was Firing a Gun in Far Rockaway
New York Trib
Two police officers shot a 15-year-old boy they say was firing a gun toward a crowd in Far Rockaway Friday night, according to the NYPD.
Former Chase Bank Employee Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Selling Customer Account Information
New York Trib
He offered to sell the undercover officer identifying information for a client’s bank account that contained more than $180,000.
New Renderings for Crown Heights Bedford Union Armory Redevelopment Have Been Released
New York Trib
Permits have not been filed yet for the reconstruction of the drill hall, which will include recreational space for the community.
Doctor Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for $30 Million Scheme to Defraud Medicare and Medicaid
New York Trib
He posed as the owner of a medical clinic and falsely claimed that he had examined and treated hundreds of patients whom he had not in fact seen.
Graffiti Bust Leads to Gun Charges
New York Trib
A Ridgewood man who had been busted for graffiti is looking at prison time after police allegedly found weapons in his home.
Head of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs Will Host a Trump Fundraiser
New York Trib
Howard Lorber, the executive chairman of New York City hot dog icon Nathan’s Famous, will host a fundraiser on Friday for President Donald Trump, Bloomberg reports.
Acting Captain of the Bonanno Crime Family Sentenced to 14 Years for Racketeering Conspiracy
New York Trib
Ronald “Ronnie G” Giallanzo Also Must Pay $1.25 Million in Forfeiture and Sell His Mansion in Howard Beach, Queens
Renderings Released of High Rise on Queens Boulevard Containing Regal Cinemas
New York Trib
The majority of the space, 95,000 square feet, will be dedicated to medical offices. The facilities have been designed for dentists, doctors, therapists, radiology, and more.
Actress Sean Young Wanted in Queens Robbery, NYPD Says
New York Trib
Surveillance footage at the location captured two suspects entering the building around noon without permission and leaving with the two laptops.
NYPD Clamps Down on Drug Dealers at Queensbridge Houses, 22 Arrested
New York Trib
The investigation, which began in September 2017, involved police officers working undercover as narcotics customers at the public housing development.
Man Attacked by Group With Sword, Sticks in Queens, NYPD Says
New York Trib
The victim tried to run away, but he tripped and fell, according cops. The suspects pounced on him, striking him with sticks and at least one sword, they said.
Ms-13 Gang Members Charged With Murder Conspiracy and Attempted Murder in Queens
New York Trib
Defendants aided and abetted co-conspirators who shot and paralyzed a 16-year-old suspected rival gang member
Bodegas in Gentrifying NYC Neighborhoods Get Exterior Upgrades Under New Program
New York Trib
The program has been implemented in Staten Island and the Bronx. Three community partners were selected for additional support from LISC to beautify commercial corridors.
Bronx Community Complaints Lead to Closing of Store Selling Toxic K2
New York Trib
The closure followed an investigation initiated after 47 Precinct Police Officers had received numerous complaints from community members about K2 being sold at a deli on White Plains Road.
Bronx Documentary Center Gets Boost for Filmmaking Program
New York Trib
Last week, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. provided the center with $100,000 in capital funds for the film fellows program.
Video: Bronx NYPD Captain Destroys Sidewalk Memorial
New York Trib
A Bronx NYPD captain was caught on video destroying a candle-lit memorial, the type of which we are all too familiar with in The Bronx when someone passes away.
Gang Member Found Guilty in Crossfire Killing of Mother of Three in the Bronx
New York Trib
On June 11, 2016, Jessica White was struck and killed by a stray bullet while sitting on a bench watching her three children play on a playground at the John
Eight Men Went to Prison for Stealing Mail in the Bronx
New York Trib
The investigation has revealed that individuals steal mail either by illicitly obtaining mail box keys or by “fishing.”
Bodegas in Gentrifying NYC Neighborhoods Get Exterior Upgrades Under New Program
New York Trib
The program has been implemented in Staten Island and the Bronx. Three community partners were selected for additional support from LISC to beautify commercial corridors.
Woman, 88, Hit by Car in Supermarket Parking Lot Settles Suit for $500,000
New York Trib
Staten Island woman who suffered serious injuries two years ago when she was hit by a vehicle while she was loading groceries in a supermarket parking lot.
Police Lieutenant Arrested for DWI on Staten Island
New York Trib
Lt. Michael Fleming was arrested on Sunday at 8:31 a.m. by police from the 123rd Precinct
Should Staten Island Beachgoers Be Fearful of Sharks?
New York Trib
After two reports of possible shark attacks off Fire Island this week, Staten Island beachgoers may be wondering if it's safe to take a dip in area waters.
NYPD Tells DOJ It’ll Move On ‘Disciplinary Proceedings’ vs. Cops in Eric Garner’s Case
New York Trib
Garner died when cops attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on July 17, 2014.
US Army Corps Proposes Hurricane Barriers Across the NY Harbor to Stop Flooding
New York Trib
In response to intensifying hurricanes that have hit the New York and New Jersey coastal region in recent years, the U.S. Army Corps is proposing a handful of measures to