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The death of elephant Topsy

The death of elephant Topsy

Topsy was born in 1875 in Southeast Asia and secretly brought to the United States of America. Her owner the Forpaugh Circus fraudulently advertised her as the first elephant born in the USA. During her 28 years, Topsy gained the reputation as a ‘bad’ elephant, mainly because she killed a spectator in 1902.


After this, she was sold and plans were made to hang her and use the event as a money making attraction by charging spectators a fee. The outrageous plan was thwarted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but it was then modified and only invited guests and reporters were to attend. Also, the organiser of her execution, Thompson and Dundy agreed to use a surer method. It was finally decided to electrocute the elephant!


Topsy died in 1903 by electrocution at Lunar Park, Coney Island. Later the organisers Thompson and Dundy claimed that the method of electrocuting the elephant was not an attempt to attract more spectators, but was instead an anti-alternating current demonstration. A test which was to prove how dangerous this kind of electrical current is.


The claim by Thompson and Dundy thus directly linked the death of Topsy to the War of Currents, war that actually played out years before Topsy was killed in front of a crowd of spectators. The War of Currents was really a dispute over the quality of different current systems. It was in fact a quality war in which two competitors chose the field of quality in an attempt to dominate the market and thus defeat its competitor.


If the execution of Topsy was actually to prove the danger of alternating current, then it failed because alternating current became the dominant electrical current system in the world.

The video about her electrocution can be watched here: 




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