Book ID: CBB001213241

Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison (2013)


Daly, Michael (Author)

Atlantic Monthly Press

Publication Date: 2013
Physical Details: viii + 369 pp.; ill.
Language: English

In 1903, on Coney Island, an elephant named Topsy was electrocuted, and over the past century, this bizarre, ghoulish execution has reverberated through popular culture with the whiff of urban legend. But it really happened, and many historical forces conspired to bring Topsy, Thomas Edison, and those 6600 volts of alternating current together that day. Tracing them all in Topsy The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison, journalist Michael Daly weaves together a fascinating popular history, the first book on this astonishing tale. At the turn of the century, the circus in America was at its apex with the circuses of P.T. Barnum and Adam Forepaugh (or 4-Paw) competing in a War of the Elephants, with declarations of whose pachyderms were younger, bigger, or more sacred. This brought Topsy to America, fraudulently billed as the first native-born, and caught between the circus disputes and the War of the Currents, in which Edison and George Westinghouse (and Nikola Tesla) battled over alternating versus direct current. Rich in period Americana, and full of circus tidbits and larger than life characters---both human and elephant---Topsy is a touching tale and an entertaining read. Describes how a circus elephant named Topsy was electrocuted in 1903 with 6,600 volts of alternating current as proof that it was much more dangerous than direct current in an ongoing dispute between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.


Description As part of a dispute between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, an elephant was electrocuted in 1903 in order to demonstrate that alternating current was more dangerous than direct current.

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Authors & Contributors
Usselman, Steven W.
Collins, Theresa M.
Gitelman, Lisa L.
Essig, Mark Regan
Jonnes, Jill
Dalzell, Frederick
Business History Review
I Elektrikeren
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Johns Hopkins University Press
Bedford/St. Martin's
Random House
MIT Press
University Press of Kansas
Electricity; magnetism
Electric power industry
Inventors and invention
Technology and industry
Edison, Thomas Alva
Westinghouse, George
Tesla, Nikola
Sprague, Frank J.
Mitchell, Silas Weir
Barnum, Phineas Taylor
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
18th century
Progressive Era (1890s-1920s)
United States
North America: United States; Canada
Pacific Northwest (North America)
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
São Paulo (Brazil)
Harvard University
New Deal (1933-1939)

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