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Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison by Michael Daly

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

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 characters—both human and elephant— Topsy is a touching, entertaining read.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802146052
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 676,002
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Michael Daly has been a newspaper journalist and columnist for many years, currently at the Daily Beast. He is the author of The Book of Mychal: The Surprising Life and Heroic Death of Father Mychal Judge about his friend, an NYFD chaplain who died on 9/11. In 2002, Daly was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He lives in Brooklyn.

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Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
AlanAbrams More than 1 year ago
Topsy is a brilliant book. The subject matter is totally enthralling. Author Michael Daly displays mastery of the written word as he brings the circus animals to life. The text is rich in history. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michael Daly definitely knows how to tell a story. I loved Topsy from start to finish. It's an amazing story told in an exciting way. Great stuff!
JonathanBell More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I found the subject matter fascinating. Plus it is told in a well written fashion that makes it easy to follow and enjoy.
JYKWA More than 1 year ago
A sad history of animal cruelty.  It was difficult to get through this book, because the author did such a good job vividly portraying the human arrogance and cruelty toward elephants, which are intelligent, empathetic animals. It broke my heart as they were torn from their mothers as calves and "trained" through beatings and deprivation. What makes me sadder is the uncomfortable thought that we still may not have learned to be better one hundred-plus years later. We still have instances of confining intelligent animals - whether they be elephants, orcas, or apes - in the name of profit or scientific research. This is a well-written book that makes us ponder whether we truly have progressed as human beings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is supposedly about the elephant named Topsy. Although it starts out with her capture, it then goes into hundreds of pages about other elephants, but MOSTLY about circus history. Ive already read all about Barnum and flim-flam artists. It was very interesting. But the overview for this book is misleading. I am on page 205 and ready to quit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has a lot of history of the elephants first brought to America. It also had history of the beginning circus times and of course electricity. Since my interest was in the elephant history I found the electricity history to kind of drag down the story. However still would recommend it as a good story to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written like a fast-paced thriller, this account of Thomas Edison's feud with every other budding electrician shines a light on a variety of issues, such as the plusses and perils of competition in a capitalist market, the maltreatment of animals in captivity, and the problematic aspects of using experimental test subjects (animals) who are unable to give consent. I have already recommended this book numerous times, and will continue to do so.
BrandyGirl More than 1 year ago
I really love animals so to me this book was disturbing. Of course, it is true and true life is not always pretty. I sure view Thomas Edison in a whole new light. Makes me happy that today we have someone looking out for circus elephants even though I know there are still some mishaps and the animal usually winds up being blamed. As far as the historical value, it hit the mark.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zero rating. Educate yourselves and read about Tesla and elephants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book about the development of electricity, the lives and treatment of elephants, and the story of the American circus industry. Another great book is the novel "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. Both books deserve A++++++