I love pop culture stories and figures from yesteryear. It is hard to imagine for example, just how popular Charles Lindbergh was after his historic transatlantic solo flight, or the cultural impact of Rudolph Valentino and Harry Houdini had in the early years of the last century – and I have enjoyed learning more about these figures in the past. But those examples are pretty obvious, and you can easily learn more about them. But every now and then an under told story comes along that is as fantastical and unbelievable and I eat it right up. Such is the case with Topsy – The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison by Michael Daly. I had never heard of Topsy before I picked up this book and was instantly drawn in by this wonderful telling of a lost story that fascinated our not so distant ancestors.

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

“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.”

If you were as disappointed as I was in the recent live action remake of Dumbo, you can get you pachyderm fix with this colorful, informative and thoroughly entertaining book.

Topsy – The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison by Michael Daly is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers everywhere.