Topsy: The Elephant We Must Never Forget
An Asian elephant called Topsy was electrocuted in front of 1500 spectators by Thomas Edison in New York on January 4, 1903. Her life represents the treatment of animals exploited by the entertainment industry and symbolises America’s industrial empire. The footage shot by Edison of Topsy’s electrocution is recognised as an important development in film-making history. Edison wanted to prove direct current was safer than alternating current (the alternative promoted by his rival, George Westinghouse) and thereby win the battle to electrify America. This chapter explores the biography of Topsy as an individual elephant whose life and death played a prominent role in the development of the animal industrial complex and the USA as an industrial, capitalist empire.
KeywordsElephant Topsy Circus Electricity Edison New York
The author wishes to express his appreciation for advice and professional assistance from Jill Howard Church in the writing of this paper.
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