Wednesday, January 04, 2012
The history of the publicity stunt has never been proud, but if the recent tide of sham celebrity weddings and "leaked" private photos leaves you longing for something grander, stranger, more ghoulish, or more elephantine, look no further than January 4, 1903. Today marks the grim anniversary of Thomas Edison's electrocution of a Coney Island elephant named Topsy as part of a media campaign to discredit George Westinghouse and his alternating current. At the time, Edison's direct current reigned supreme, but AC was proving much more efficient and posed a significant threat to his dominance. Edison attempted to portray AC as extremely dangerous and first demonstrated its lethal effects by publicly roasting several stray cats and dogs. When Luna Park Zoo needed a way to dispose of Topsy, their increasingly violent elephant, Edison offered his assistance.