I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, so for the next few weeks my stories will appear daily, in alphabetical order.

I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, so this month my stories will appear daily, in alphabetical order.

In July 1896, Victor D. Levitt, the manager of the Bostock-Ferrari Midway Carnival Company, received an alligator that hailed from the St. Sebastian River in Florida. Victor considered the gift to be a bad luck sign, as the large alligator had been bruised in a train wreck on its way to New York.

Victor decided to give the alligator to Acting Police Captain Lawson of the Coney Island Police station as a sign of his gratitude for Lawson’s upstanding service since taking over the corrupt police force started by Gravesend Supervisor John McKane.

Alligator

Not wanting to appear ungrateful, Captain Lawson accepted the alligator graciously. He then chained the alligator to the lawn of the station house on West 8th Street, where it drew large crowds. Thinking that this activity was in violation of the penal code (not to mention dangerous!), he convinced Captain Paul Boyton that he needed an alligator at his new Sea Lion Park (because alligators and sea lions get along so well.)

John Y. McKane

Gravesend Town Supervisor and Sunday school teacher John McKane fortified his control over corruption and vice by creating a Coney Island police force in 1881 and appointing himself chief. Many of the “policemen” that he commanded from his shack in the sand were ex-cons who often robbed the people who sought their help.


Captain Paul Boyton

Born in Ireland in 1848, Paul Boyton took to the sea at a young age. He reportedly joined the U.S. Navy when he was 15 to fight for the Union side during the Civil War. He also helped organize the United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS) and served as captain of the USLSS station in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

It was during his stint with the USLSS in 1874 that he discovered the rubber life-saving suit invented by C. S. Merriman of Pittsburgh.

Gravesend town hall

In the late 1880s, the Coney Island police shared space in the Gravesend town hall at 2337 McDonald Avenue (they had four jail cells in the basement). It was here Captain Lawson kept the alligator on display. The town hall was constructed around 1873 on the site of a former schoolhouse built in 1788. When the police force moved into their new headquarters in 1897, the town hall served Engine Co. 254. It was demolished in 1913.

The suit – the precursor to the frogman diving suit or the dry suit used in scuba diving – was essentially rubber pants and a shirt cinched at the waist. It had air pockets that one could inflate using tubes, which allowed the person to float in the water and stay dry for long periods of time. (If only the Titanic had a few thousand of these on board!)

Captain Paul Boyton

Captain Paul Boyton

In the winter of 1879, James Creelman, a reporter for the New York Herald who couldn’t swim, was assigned to test the life-saving suit in New York. He and Paul Boyton donned the suits and jumped into the icy water at Castle Garden (today’s Battery Park) at 11 p.m.

The two daredevils paddled their way in the dark as Boyton shot off Coston flares to alert the men on Governor’s Island that they were approaching. Once near the island, they drank some wine and smoked cigars that Boyton kept along with his flares and other safety gear in a small, 3-foot iron boat that he tied to himself.

Paul Boyton in rubber life-saving suit, 1880s

Captain Paul Boyton was famous for his daring demonstrations of a watertight rubber suit designed as a life-saving device for steamship passengers.

After a few dangerous encounters with ice floes, the men finally reached shore at Stapleton, Staten Island, around 6 a.m. It was James Creelman’s vivid account of that dangerous adventure that helped propel Boyton to aquatic stardom.

Sea Lion Park

After years on the road demonstrating the rubber suit and operating a traveling aquatic circus, Paul finally settled down at Coney Island.

In 1895, he bought 16 acres of cheap land behind the failing Elephant Colossus hotel from the New York & Sea Beach Railroad. He opened his Sea Lion Park on July 4th of that same year.

Paul Boyton demonstrates life-saving suit

Paul Boyton would demonstrate the life-saving suit by paddling like an otter down the rivers of Europe. The Italians labeled him “L’uomo pesce” – the fish man. In this drawing from the Illustrated London News in November 1874, Boyton demonstrates the suit in Cork Harbour, Ireland.

Sea Lion Park was a fenced-in amusement park that featured a broad lagoon where Captain Boyton would demonstrate his rubber suit and show off his performing sea lions.

The one-price admission also gave people access to the old-mill water ride, the famous Shooting-the-Chutes ride designed by Boyton and Thomas Polk, and the Flip Flap Railroad ride.

Sea Lion Park, Coney Island

This photo of Sea Lion Park was reportedly taken from the rear of the Elephant Colossus hotel across from Surf Avenue, between W. 11th and W. 12th Street. The Shooting-the-Chutes is on the right and the Flip Flap Railroad is near the entrance on the left.

I’m not sure why Police Captain Lawson or Captain Boyton thought Sea Lion Park would be a good place for an alligator, but it was here the alligator – which they named Cap Lawson — made its brief stay on the island.

The Grizzly Death of Cap Lawson

On July 14, 1896, Cap Lawson decided to break through the wires of his enclosure and make a meal out of Captain Boyton’s Newfoundland, Nero, who was sleeping nearby. As several attendants watched in horror, the alligator and dog engaged in a fierce battle.

Although the men tried to separate the two with clubs, their efforts were to no avail. Finally, Nero seized Cap Lawson by the throat and killed him. The poor alligator who was taken from his river home and survived a train crash never had a chance against the Coney Island Newfoundland.

Shooting-the-Shoots

Shooting-the-Chutes was an aquatic toboggan slide with flat-bottomed boats that slid down a long steep slide into the lagoon. An up-curve at the lower end would launch the boat into the air before it hit the surface, resulting in a series of hops and skips that heaved the passengers from their seats several times. The boat was guided to a landing by a boatman on board, then pulled up the ramp by cable and turned around on a small turntable to be ready for the next group of passengers who arrived at the top by elevator.

The Demise of Sea Lion Park

Although Captain Boyton enjoyed a few years of success – especially after he built a large ballroom on the former site of the Elephant hotel in 1899 – he couldn’t entice repeat customers on an annual basis.

Flip Flap Railroad

The Flip Flap Railroad was a dangerous ride that featured two-passenger roller coaster cars that descended from a high lift hill and sped through a vertical 25-foot diameter loop. The cars were held in place at the top by centrifugal force only. The ride’s abrupt high G-forces sometimes caused whiplash as the cars entered the circular loop.

Following a dismal rainy season in 1902, he offered a 25-year lease to Frederic W. Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy, proprietors of the “Trip to the Moon” attraction at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park. A year later, they opened the spectacular Luna Park on the site.

Still drawn to the water, Boyton spent the rest of his life building houseboats along the Mississippi River. He retired in 1912 and returned to the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

On April 19, 1924, he died of complications from pneumonia in his new home at 2649 Manfield Place (today’s East 24th Street). He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery on Long Island.

Sea Lion Park

The feeding of the sea lions at Captain Boyton’s Sea Lion Park.

Milson O'Boy Morris & Essex

Milson O’Boy, owned by Mrs. Gertrude G. Cheever Porter of New York City, took Best in Show at the Morris & Essex in 1935, defeating 3,175 dogs.

One of the most popular owners and breeders of championship Irish Setters in the history of show dogs was Mrs. Gertrude G. Cheever Porter of New York City. Over the years, she owned eight champion Irish Setters and numerous other show dogs. Her pride and joy was Ch. Milson O’Boy, whose career in the 1930s included 11 Best in Show, 46 Group Firsts, and 103 Best of Breed awards.

Gertrude G. Cheever was born in New York on May 3, 1889. She was the only child of John Dow Cheever and Anna Cheever of 14 East 30th Street. John was a successful banker and also the founder of the Rockaway Hunt Club. Her grandfather, John Haven Cheever, was president of the New York Belting and Packing Co. and of the Mechanical Rubber Co. He was also one of the first businessmen to establish a country estate at Far Rockaway, then part of Long Island.

John Haven Cheever estate, Far Rockaway, Wave Crest

Gertrude’s grandfather, John Haven Cheever, was a pioneer in establishing Far Rockaway, Long Island, as a country home for well-to-do New York businessmen. He was a founding developer of Wave Crest, an 80-acre gated community of mansions on what was once the Clark estate on the western boundary of Far Rockaway (in the vicinity of today’s Spray View Avenue) The Cheever home was located on a five-acre plot about ¼ mile from the ocean, where the family farmed and raised horses.

In 1909 at the age of 20, Gertrude, a New York City debutante, had her coming-out party. About this time, or perhaps at this party, she met Seton Porter, a member of her father’s Rockaway Hunt Club. Seton was a graduate of Yale and chairman of the Board of National Distillers.

John H Cheever residence, Wave Crest, Far Rockaway

Gertrude and Seton Porter held their wedding reception in 1911 on the veranda of the John Dow Cheever country home in Wave Crest, Far Rockaway. This unusually shaped home was designed by the legendary architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White and built for $17,000 in 1886. The Cheever home was demolished in the 1940s.

The two were married at St. John’s Church in Far Rockaway on June 3, 1911, and lived at 884 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Gertrude and Seton divorced in 1924. Gertrude never remarried and she continued to go by the name of Mrs. Cheever Porter while collecting $840 a month in alimony; Seton went on to marry two more times.

A Champion Ice Skater

Before she started showing championship dogs, Gertrude was a champion ice skater with the New York Skating Club. She started skating while still married to Seton Porter, and was often paired with Irving Isaac Brokaw, another member of the club. In later years, she was the executive director of the Skating Carnival, an annual benefit event that took place at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s.

Gertrude Cheever Porter and Isaac Irving Brokaw

In 1920, Gertrude Cheever Porter and Isaac Irving Brokaw were gold-medal champions in the 10 Step, an early set pattern ice dance. Brokaw was a four-time world champion and America’s first Winter Olympian (prior to the creation of the Winter Games in 1924, ice skating was part of the Summer Games.).

Conservatory Pond Central Park

Founded in 1863, the New York Skating Club was the second skating club formed in the United States. In the 1860s, members skated at the Conservatory Pond in Central Park, shown here, and then at various private ponds on Fifth Avenue.

New York Skating Club

At each skating site, the members would build a clubhouse for their exclusive use. In early years, the club had an official meteorologist, Mr. E.B. Cooke, to report on the weather and skating conditions at the rinks. This particular clubhouse was located in 1868 on the southeast corner of Central Park, just off Fifth Avenue.

St. Nicholas Ice Rink, New York

In the 1880s, refrigerated ice surfaces replaced outdoor ice ponds, many of which had been covered over for office buildings and hotels. Members of the New York Skating Club skated at two rinks named Iceland, the first on Broadway and 53rd Street and the second at 239 West 52nd Street. In 1896, the St. Nicholas Rink, shown here in 1901, opened on Columbus Avenue and 66th Street. The area was used exclusively for ice sports until 1911, when prize box fighting moved in. The building was later used as a production center for ABC and Eyewitness News. It was demolished in the 1980s and is now the site of the network’s main offices.

Requiem for the Porter Irish Setters

When she wasn’t competing on the rink, Mrs. Cheever Porter was busy showing her championship Irish Setters. Her first two show dogs, Ch. St. Cloud’s Fermanagh III “Dixie” and Ch. Lord Palmerston II “The Woods,” were born in 1924. Ch. Peggy Belle was born in 1926, followed by Red Barney, who survived less than a year and never had the chance to show. Fermanagh IV “Dixie Jr.” was born in 1931 and Milson O’Boy was born in 1932. Next was Milson Copper Lad in 1935 and another great champion, Rosecroft Premier, who was born in 1938 and quickly rose to national fame.

Ch. Rosecroft Premier

Ch. Rosecroft Premier won 124 Best of Breed awards in the 1940s. Charcoal illustration by Gladys Cook, 1945

Milson O’Boy was the son of the champion Higgins Red Coat and Milson’s Miss Sonny. The Irish Setter hit his stride at the age of three, when he won the highest honor of the year — Best in Show at the Morris & Essex Show in Madison, New Jersey. At this show and many others, he was handled by Harry Hartnett, owner of the Milson Kennels at Harrison, New York.

Milson O’Boy had numerous offspring and sired 17 championship dogs, including Ch. Milson O’Boy II, who became the foundation stock for the Knightscroft Kennels in New City, New York. This kennel produced Ch. Rosecroft Premier, who reportedly “pushed Milson O’Boy from his thrown” and was purchased by Mrs. Cheever Porter for about $1,500 in 1940.

Cheever Porter Town Car

In 1940, the year Mrs. Cheever Porter purchased Rosecroft Premier, she reportedly had a luxury Cadillac town car built, shown here. An article in Special Interest Autos claimed that the mistress of legendary singer and band leader Vaughn Monroe had the car built and designed for him. This suggests that Gertrude Cheever Porter was Monroe’s mistress, but I can’t confirm this assumption.

Milson O’Boy died on June 29, 1945, and was buried alongside six of his champion Porter “siblings” at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Rosecroft Premier joined the seven other setters at Hartsdale when he died on June 12, 1951.

Gertrude Cheever Porter continued showing Irish Setters and other breeds until 1979, at the age of 90. When she died on November 14, 1980, The New York Times published a very small obituary with no details about her death or burial. A gravestone with her name in Trinity-St. John’s Cemetery in Hewlett, New York, has no dates.

Gertrude Cheever Porter grave

A tombstone with the name “Gertrude Cheever Porter” suggests that she was buried at Trinity Cemetery in Nassau County.

However, she left as her legacy the Cheever Porter Foundation, which was started in June 1962 and has since made numerous grants to schools of veterinary medicine, veterinary hospitals, and guide dog foundations. In 2013, the independent foundation based in Huntington, New York, had $2.6 million in assets.

Cheever Porter graves, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

Ch. Milson O’Boy died in 1945, and was buried at the legendary Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County. Eight of Mrs. Cheever Porter’s champion Irish Setters are buried here. Photo, P. Gavan

Topsy the Elephant

The elephant was stolen from her home, secretly smuggled into America, and called Topsy, after the slave girl featured in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That says it all.

Warning: This story brought tears to my eyes, and was very difficult to write. However, I believe it’s an important story to tell in order to show how far we’ve come in America when it comes to treating both animals and humans, how far we still need to go, and how important it is for us to ensure that other countries catch up and keep pace with us.

Our sad story begins around 1875, when a 200-pound baby elephant was captured by elephant traders in Southeast Asia. Adam Forepaugh of the Forepaugh & Sells Circus smuggled the elephant into America and falsely billed her as the “first American born elephant.”

Topsy the elephant

Topsy quickly became the star of the circus and a fan favorite.

Like many circus animals at the time, Topsy was subject to harsh treatment and torture during her training and performances. Trainers often prodded her with sharp hooks between the eyes and in the head or used hot pokers to make her obey their orders.

Naturally, Topsy’s temper became shorter and shorter, and she turned on her trainers. She attacked several handlers and reportedly killed two circus workers in Texas (no records exist to prove this accusation). And then in May 1902 she killed a spectator in Brooklyn who went too far.

According to published reports, James Fielding Blount allegedly offered her whiskey, threw sand in her face, and then put a burning cigarette into her trunk. The man met his end when Topsy wrapped her trunk around him, tossed him into the air, and then smashed and trampled him on the ground. Payback is a bitch, as they say.

Frederic Thompson

Frederic Thompson and his business partner, Elmer “Skip” Dundy acquired Topsy in 1902 when they took over the long-term lease on Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park.

Following this highly-publicized incident, Topsy was sold to Captain Paul Boyton, the proprietor of Sea Lion Park at Coney Island. When his park went bankrupt a year later, Paul Boyton turned the elephant over to the new owners, Frederic Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy, who were constructing Luna Park on the site.

Life before Luna Park was horrible for Topsy, but it was about to get much worse. For the rest of her short pathetic life, she was put to use hauling building and construction materials. Frederic and Elmer called it her penance for being so aggressive.

Trip to the Moon, Luna Park

One of Topsy’s biggest jobs was moving the massive “Trip the Moon” structure from Steeplechase to Luna Park.

One of her biggest jobs was moving the massive “Trip the Moon” structure from George Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park to Luna Park. The 80-foot tall, 40,000 square foot structure was placed on heavy timbers with big wooden rollers, and Topsy was put to work. She put her forehead against the building, and, with the help of only a few poor horses, pushed it nearly a mile down Surf Avenue to its new location.

Whitey the Elephant Beater

William Ault, better known as Whitey, was Topsy’s keeper and slave driver for over a decade. He was the only one who could handle her – but apparently he could only handle her if he tortured her. He often used a pitchfork on her, and was arrested at least one time after police observed “excessive” prodding. One time the ASPCA prosecuted Whitey for wounding Topsy’s eye, but unfortunately he was acquitted of animal cruelty because the abuse was deemed acceptable at that time.

Luna Airship, Trip to the Moon

The “Trip to the Moon” attraction at Luna Park featured a 30-passenger airship resembling a giant red canoe with wings. The “Airship Luna” was suspended from the ceiling by steel cables, permitting the ship to rock and swing lightly. Hundreds of lights and sound effects added to the experience.

The final nail in Topsy’s coffin came at noon on a December day when an intoxicated Whitey tried to ride the elephant down Surf Avenue. After about a half mile, Tospy stopped, causing Whitey to slide off. This angered him, and he began prodding her trunk in a savage matter as a crowd watched and cheered (Yes, it there were smart phones in those days, a video of this violent act would have gone viral).

Policeman Conlin of the Coney Island police force arrested him, whereupon Whitey said he would turn the elephant loose upon the crowd. Conlin in turn threatened to shoot the trainer if he let Topsy charge the crowd. Whitey acquiesced — temporarily. They made their way to the police station on West 8th Street, where Topsy mounted the broad granite steps and got wedged in the front door.

Coney Island Magistrates Court and Police Station, West 8th Street

Topsy tried to enter the new Coney Island police station and magistrates’ court, but got wedged in the door. Located on West 8th Street, the 1897 building was known as the Little Brown Jug at Coney Island. The court was shut down in 1958 and the building was torn down. A new station for the police (60th Precinct) was erected on the site in 1971.

Sergeant Levis begged Whitey to drive the animal back, but it took him a while to obey the order (Levis should have used a pitchfork on him!). Finally, Fred Thompson showed up, paid the bail, and ordered Ault to return Topsy to Luna Park. Whitey was ordered to appear in court on charges of disorderly conduct.

Whitey was immediately fired, but with no one left to handle Topsy, Fred and Elmer had to get rid of her. They tried to raffle her off and give her away for free, but no zoo would take her. With no other options left, the men decided to euthanize Topsy.

First the men announced they would kill Topsy by hanging her from the new Electric Tower, which was being constructed in the middle of the former park’s Shoot the Chute lagoon (the tower was only 75 feet high by this time). ASPCA president John Peter Haines quickly quashed that idea.

Erwin, Tennessee, elephant hanging

The ASPCA would not allow Fred and Elmer to hang Topsy from the Luna Tower in Coney Island. However, 13 years later an elephant was hanged to death in Erwin, Tennessee.

Next, they discussed charging a 25-cent admission to publicly electrocute the elephant. The backup plan was to feed her cyanide-laced carrots and strangle her with large ropes hung from the tower and tied to a steam powered winch.

For some asinine reason, Haines said no to the admission fee, but he was fine with a public execution.

On December 13, 1902, Luna Park press agent Charles Murray released a statement to the newspapers that Topsy would be euthanized within a few days by electrocution.

A “First-Class Execution”

“The affair is expected to be one of the most brilliant society features of the Coney Island season.”—New York Tribune, January 3, 1903

Topsy the elephant electrocution

The execution was set for January 4, 1903. Expecting a large crowd due to all the publicity, Fred and Elmer hired a caterer and a brass band for the event. They told the press it would be a “first-class execution.”

Fred and Elmer turned to Thomas Edison, who was then competing with Nikola Tesla’s alternating current (AC) method and trying to preserve his direct current (DC) method as the electricity standard for the United States. In his attempt to discourage the use of AC, Edison had been staging public demonstrations of its danger by electrocuting stray and unwanted animals, including cats, dogs, horses, and cows. Apparently he just couldn’t resist the opportunity to demonstrate the “dangers” of AC one more time.

Edison agreed to electrocute Topsy, and as an added bonus, he said he would document the event using a movie camera, another one of his inventions. (I guess you could say he got two bangs for the buck — major sarcasm). The electrocution was supervised by P. D. Sharkey, chief electrician with the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn.

You can watch Edison’s video here, but it is disturbing.

On January 4, 1903, a crowd of about 1,500 spectators and 100 photographers gathered in the Luna Park construction zone to witness the hours-long spectacle. First, elephant “expert” Carl Goliath and other handlers loaded her with chains and tried to coax her over the lagoon bridge using apples, carrots, and hay. (The men had offered Whitey 25 dollars to help with the execution, but he turned it down, saying he wouldn’t kill her for a thousand dollars.)

Topsy elephant execution

Days before the event, press agent Murray arranged media coverage and posted banners around the park and on all four sides of the makeshift gallows advertising “OPENING MAY 2ND 1903 LUNA PARK $1,000,000 EXPOSITION, THE HEART OF CONEY ISLAND”. You can see these signs on the unfinished “Electric Tower” in this press photograph of the electrocution.

After two hours, they finally got her in place, but then she wouldn’t stay still on the metal plates. She shook the copper-lined wooden sandals off her feet and refused to eat the cyanide-laced carrots. They say elephants are smart – she definitely knew what was happening to her.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Alva Edison, around 1903, was often associated with the death of Topsy. Edison was not present at Luna Park and it’s unclear what impact he had on the execution or its filming.

Eventually Topsy ate the carrots and Sharkey signaled for Joseph Johansen, the superintendent at Coney Island station nine blocks away, to pull the switch. At the same time, Luna Park chief electrician Hugh Thomas closed another switch at the park, sending 6,600 volts from Bay Ridge through Topsy’s body for 10 seconds.

There was a flash of fire and the odor of burning flesh. Her body shook violently and she fell to the ground. Then the steam-powered winch tightened two nooses placed around her neck for 10 minutes as an added precaution. An autopsy showed that that the poison did not have time to take effect.

Elephant Hotel, Coney Island

Originally intended to serve as a hotel, the elephant contained a cigar store in the front legs, a gallery in the “Stomach Room,” a grand hall through the diaphragm and liver, and a museum in what would be the elephant’s left lung. The elephant’s eyes in the “Cheek Room” had telescopes and served as an observatory.

Johansen was knocked out and nearly electrocuted himself, but he sustained only small burns from the power traveling from his right arm to his left leg. When you look at these photos, it’s amazing more people weren’t injured. (Let’s see: metal plates, 6,600 volts, a 5-ton elephant on a rickety bridge over a body of water — OSHA would have had a field day with this one.)

Topsy was about 35 years old at the time of her death, which is about half the expected life span for an elephant with a decent life in the wild.

Elephant Hotel and coaster, Coney Island

The fire also destroyed Lorenzo Shaw’s Channel Chute, a wooden roller coaster built in 1895 that encircled the hotel and was often called the Elephant Scenic Railway.
This ride featured cars that were taken by elevator to the top and then circled back down around the Elephant. The nearby Toboggan Slide survived the fire.

The Elephantine Colossus

Ironically, Topsy was electrocuted on the very spot that was once occupied by the iconic Elephantine Colossus, otherwise known as the Elephant Hotel. The 12-story pachyderm designed by James V. Lafferty stood above Surf Avenue and West 12th Street from 1885 until 1896, when it was destroyed in a spectacular fire.

Topsy elephant electrocution

A Coney Island Tragedy: Burning of the Historic Elephant: The prophetic cover from the October 10, 1896, issue of The Illustrated American.

Built two years before the Statue of Liberty, the Elephant Hotel was said to be the first artificial structure visible to immigrants arriving to America. Its manager often exaggerated the view, telling visitors they would be able see places like Yellowstone Park, Niagara Falls, and Paris from the elephant’s back.

In the 1890s, the giant elephant served as a brothel (male patrons would say they were “seeing the elephant”). However, when the structure caught fire on September 27, 1896, it had not been used for several years.

When the smoke cleared, all that remained standing was a part of the elephant’s foreleg. At least this elephant was not a living, breathing creature when it fried.

In recent years, several former employees of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus have gone public by speaking out against the way elephants continue to be mistreated. Like Topsy, these animals are abused with sharp metal bull hooks and are kept on chains for most of their lives.

On March 5, 2015, the Feld family, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, announced that it would phase out its 13 performing Asiatic elephants by the beginning of 2018. These elephants will join the more than 40 pachyderms already resident at the Feld family-owned Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

Luna Park Electric Tower

Luna Park opened on May 16, 1903, just four months after Topsy’s murder. The park was quite spectacular at night, with all the towers and minarets lit up by more than 250,000 incandescent lights. It’s more than ironic that Topsy was executed by electricity at the base of the park’s iconic Electric Tower.