Around the turn of the century, the United States was locked in an ideological battle over the future of the nation’s power grid. The two sides dealt with direct currents and alternating currents. While both forms of power deliver electricity, they do so differently. Thomas Edison was a firm believer in the direct current, while George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla were proponents of using the alternating current.
As a way to discredit his competitors, Edison held several public events during which he attempted to show the supposed dangers of using an alternating current. He did this by electrocuting and killing a number of animals with the technology. The biggest and most controversial of these events was held on Coney Island in New York City back in 1903. At this event, Edison electrocuted and killed a 36-year-old circus elephant by the name of Topsy.
Cameras were rolling so that future generations would be able to remember Edison’s cruelty.
Despite Edison’s cruel stunts, the alternating current won and it’s the same system we use for transmitting electricity today. Topsy’s story is just another example of the cruelty that goes into animal testing, and a reminder that there’s always more than meets the eye when it comes to historical figures.