Topsy: The Startling Story Of The Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, And the American Wizard, Thomas Edison

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In 1903, an elephant named Topsy was electrocuted on Coney Island, and ever since, this bizarre execution has reverberated through popular culture with the whiff of urban legend.


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  • Topsy


But it really happened, and many historical forces conspired to bring Topsy, Thomas Edison, and those 6,600 volts of alternating current together. In Topsy, Michael Daly weaves them together into a fascinating popular history.

The first elephant arrived in America in 1796, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that the circus entered its golden age, thanks especially to P.T. Barnum and Adam Forepaugh (or 4-Paw). With fantastic detail, Daly brings this world to life: caravans, crooks, and side-shows. And he captures the life of the animals, both the cruelties they suffered and, when treated with kindness, their remarkable feats. Rich in period Americana, and full of larger-than-life characters—both human and elephant—Topsy is a touching, entertaining read.

"A gripping popular history. … Vivid … simultaneously fascinating and horrifying" —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Additional Information

Author Michael Daly
Publisher Grove Press
Page Count 370pp
Publication Size 5.5 x 8.25 x 1.5
Publication Notes Softcover, b/w
Publication Date June 3, 2014
ISBN 978-0802146052

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