January 4 - 1903 - Topsy the Elephant is Electrocuted at Luna Park

Topsy the Elephant was a female Asian elephant who had been performing in circuses, but got a reputation as a "bad elephant" and so her owners decided to euthanize her. They also decided to make a public spectacle of hanging her at their amusement park at Coney Island in Brooklyn. After a large outcry, the owners of Luna Park agreed to make it an electrocution done only for ticketed guests and the media, including cameramen from the Edison Manufacturing Company. The whole event seems somehow other, or like it could not have happened in the same universe that modern people live in. Yet it is precisely these sort of macabre mass spectacles that reveal the most about the early 20th century, rather than the accounts of battles, elections, or trade negotiations.

William Floyd