The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison
“A gripping popular history. . . . Vivid . . . simultaneously fascinating and horrifying” St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“[A] poignant, grim account of dueling impresarios and the American appetite for curiosities centered on one elephant’s life and death. . . . Topsy is a fascinating but disturbing story, a skillfully told and admirably researched reminder of a time not as long ago as we’d like to think.” Wall Street Journal
“Bizarre and remarkable . . . Daly’s fascinating, nuanced portraits of the seedy sides of the circus’s heyday and the dawn of the electric age makes for incredibly entertaining reading.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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. 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 charactersboth human and elephantTopsy
is a touching, entertaining read.