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

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 3 Critic Reviews

A fascinating and moving piece of American history and a meditation on the cost of entertainment and human progress.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

In 1903, on Coney Island, an elephant named Topsy was electrocuted, and over the past century, this bizarre, ghoulish 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 6600 volts of alternating current together that day. Tracing them all in Topsy The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison, journalist Michael Daly weaves together a fascinating popular history, the first book on this astonishing tale.

At the turn of the century, the circus in America was at its apex with the circuses of P.T. Barnum and Adam Forepaugh (or 4-Paw) competing in a War of the Elephants, with declarations of whose pachyderms were younger, bigger, or more “sacred”. This brought Topsy to America, fraudulently billed as the first native-born, and caught between the circus disputes and the War of the Currents, in which Edison and George Westinghouse (and Nikola Tesla) battled over alternating versus direct current.

Rich in period Americana, and full of circus tidbits and larger than life characters—both human and elephant—Topsy is a touching tale and an entertaining read.
 

About Michael Daly

See more books from this Author
Michael Daly has been a newspaper journalist and columnist for many years, currently with the New York Daily News. 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.
 
Published July 2, 2013 by Atlantic Monthly Press. 394 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Topsy
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Apr 15 2013

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.

Read Full Review of Topsy: The Startling Story of... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by CHRISTOPHER CORBETT on Aug 02 2013

"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. The material is sometimes thin, more the making of a long magazine piece than the subject for a 345-page book, but it is full of fabulous characters.

Read Full Review of Topsy: The Startling Story of... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Kirkus

Good
on Apr 06 2013

A fascinating and moving piece of American history and a meditation on the cost of entertainment and human progress.

Read Full Review of Topsy: The Startling Story of... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Reader Rating for Topsy
67%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 26 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×