Electrocuting an Elephant

US 1903

This is one of the earliest junctions between film, animals and electricity. In order to sabotage the development of electro generators for AC, which can transmit higher voltage current over greater distances than his own DC system, Edison began a campaign in which he and his collaborators electrocuted 1887 stray cats and dogs with 1000 Volt AC in order to demonstrate how dangerous it is. The campaign was so successful that the NY State parliament introduced the electric chair in place of hanging as the preferred method of execution. His one minute film, Electrocuting an Elephant, shows the execution of the elephant Topsy who had previously killed two people at Luna Park, Coney Island. (Note: the link goes to a version in which the film is repeated several times)

Thomas A. Edison, US 1903, 1 min, s/w, stumm

Electrocuting an Elephant