When Edison Lit Up Manhattan

Started, Sept 4, 1882

Thomas Edison’s Edison Illuminating Company flipped the switch on his power station on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, providing electricity to homes at a price comparable to gas. By the end of the month, they had 59 customers. By the next year, they had 513.

1903-In 1903, Topsy the elephant, a circus attraction, was to be put to death for attacking a trainer (the trainer fed her a lit cigarette, so Topsy hardly had a baffling response). Thomas Edison proposed to use the occasion to demonstrate the dangers of AC, which was being considered by New York City. Using techniques perfected during the course of his secret work on an execution tool for humans—the electric chair—he arranged to have Topsy fed carrots laced with sixteen ounces of potassium cyanide and then shod with wooden sandals lined with copper and draped with wires. After the switch was pulled, the elephant died in less than a minute.