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1903- Topsy the elephant is electrocuted by her owners at Luna Park, Coney Island and filmed by Edison Manufacturing movie company

January 4, 2023

Topsy was a female elephant secretly brought into the United States and added to a herd of performing elephants. She was born in Southeast Asia around 1875 but was marketed as the first elephant born in America.

Topsy The Circus Elephant

She spent 25 years performing at the Forepaugh Circus, where she quickly gained a reputation.

She was famously known as a bad elephant and was soon viewed negatively after killing a spectator in 1902. She was consequently sold to Coney Island's Sea Lion Park. After her sale, the elephant was involved in several other incidents attributed to poor handling or her soon-to-be owners, Frederick Thompson and Emer Dundy.

Topsy’s Death

The new owners soon made plans to euthanize Topsy during the opening of a new park, Luna Park. They charged a fee for spectators to gain admission. Their plans were soon cut short by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

At first, Topsy's death was meant to be a spectacle for the opening of Luna Park. But the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals limited the number of spectators to a handful and enlisted three sure ways to put the elephant down; Poison, strangling, and electrocution.

On January 4, 1903, Topsy was fed 460 grams of carrots laced with potassium cyanide. She was subsequently electrocuted and strangled. In the end, electrocution was determined to be her cause of death.

Edison Makes A Movie

Edison Manufacturing Movie was an American film production organization owned by Thomas Edison. This is the firm that was invited to film the process of euthanizing Topsy, the circus elephant. They soon released a film titled Electrocuting an Elephant, which was probably the first filmed death of an animal.


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