13 February 2008


The execution of Topsy

The Commercial Advertiser, New York, Monday, January 5, 1903.
Topsy Meets Quick and Painless Death at Coney Island.
Topsy, the ill-tempered Coney Island elephant, was put to death in Luna Park, Coney Island, yesterday afternoon. The execution was witnessed by 1,500 or more curious persons, who went down to the island to see the end of the huge beast, to whom they had fed peanuts and cakes in summers that are gone. In order to make Topsy's execution quick and sure 460 grams of cyanide of potassium were fed to her in carrots. Then a hawser was put around her neck and one end attached to a donkey engine and the other to a post. Next wooden sandals lined with copper were attached to her feet. These electrodes were connected by copper wire with the Edison electric light plant and a current of 6,600 volts was sent through her body. The big beast died without a trumpet or a groan.
Topsy was brought to this country twenty-eight years ago by the Forepaugh Circus, and has been exhibited throughout the United States. She was ten feet high and 19 feet 11 inches in length. Topsy developed a bad temper two years ago and killed two keepers in Texas. Last spring, when the Forepaugh show was in Brooklyn, J. F. Blount, a keeper, tried to feed a lighted cigarette to her. She picked him up with her trunk and dashed him to the ground, killing him instantly.

Here is the story of another elephant execution., her name was Thisty Mary.

And here another her name was Mary

You can take Kees out of the bush, but you can't take the bush out of Kees

Excuse me. It was 1916. Guess I was typing too fast.

Leeuna Foster Homepage 02.22.08 - 1:32 pm #

I live right in the very heart of Erwin. I write for the newspaper in Erwin. I remember my grandmother talking about the incident. I think this has been told so many times folks would be tired of it by now.

The reason that the elephant was "murdered" in Erwin was because we had the only railroad shops with a derrick that could lift the elephant up to hang it. It needed to be put down because it had gone on a killing rampage. There wasn't enough electrical current to electrocute her, no gun was powerful enough so the folks from KINGSPORT TN brought her to Erwin to be hanged. That was the only way. There was no elephant sanctuary at the time and no place to take her. It was in the year 1912 for God's sake!!!

We aren't blood-thirsty savages here. We aren't animal haters. I wish people would just get over it already!

Leeuna Foster Homepage 02.22.08 - 1:20 pm #

There was a rash of elephant executions in the early 20th cent. here. Erwin isn't too far from me. The Snakehandlers I hang with all say that trestle near where Mary was hanged is haunted and you can see her hanging when the fog falls.
Rosie Homepage 02.19.08 - 10:25 am #

.... Johnson City is only about 1.5 hours north of me.... I should probably go up there and see the spot where Mary got hung.....

Eric Homepage 02.15.08 - 2:10 am #

Hell I would have been one pissed off elephant too.

hammer Homepage 02.13.08 - 9:38 pm #

IIRC, there was a big foofaraw about whether to use Edison's DC electricity or Westinghouse's AC to electrocute Topsy. Each Electrical Entrepreneur wanted the other guy's technology used, so he could advertise a "safer" form of power to his own customers.

Too bad about the cyanide. Belt-and-suspenders, I suppose. Without it, you would have had a lotta prime dog food, at least...and already cooked!

It's sad, you know. That last keeper ("Mr. Lighted Cigarette") only got what he deserved.

Elisson Homepage 02.13.08 - 6:13 pm #

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