Tom Edison and George Westinghouse battled for years over which type of electricity would be the worldwide standard. The Current War incited Tom to electrocute a six-ton elephant named Topsy.
It’s 1904. Edison is on trial for Topsy’s premeditated murder a year earlier. In an unusual legal maneuver, Westinghouse assumed the state’s prerogative by retaining the prosecutor, Bourke Cockran, a wealthy Manhattan attorney, Federal Congressman, and a mainstay in the Democratic Party. Edison retained the defense, Elias Kilgore, another wealthy Manhattan attorney with a long list of millionaire clients.
At stake are the reputation and life of Tom Edison, the validity of the death penalty, the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, our laws governing our treatment of animals, and our continuing journey to be a more humane society.
The world is watching.
Based on real events perpetrated by real people, Who Murdered Mary? is a gripping tale of shortsighted decisions, heartless animal cruelty, and needless murder of an innocent circus elephant that was aided and abetted by mob rule and officials of a prosperous railroad. The tale unfolded during three tumultuous days in September 1916 in the peaceful but ill-fated towns of Kingsport, Johnson City, and Erwin, Tennessee.
Who murdered Mary? The owner and publicist of the circus for whom Mary toiled with uncanny, crowd-pleasing talent? The fearful citizens of Erwin who became vigilantes and demanded her death? The Mayors of Johnson City and Erwin who caved in to a mob? Officials of The Clinchfield Railroad? The Progressive Era? Our contemporary attitudes toward animal cruelty? Did all of them contribute to this grisly spectacle that refuses to go away?
September 15, 1885, 8:15PM, Saint Thomas, Ontario: Circus workers are loading elephants on the train that will take them to a tomorrow’s performances in a nearby town. The workers have ignored simple safety rules and a special freight train piloted by an experienced engineer rams and kills Jumbo, history’s most famous and beloved elephant and the world’s first animal superstar.Join Sarah Scrivener, America’s first female investigative journalist, as she unwinds this twisted, bizarre, inexplicable death that plunged the world into infinite sadness. Was Jumbo’s death a gory accident? An elaborate hoax perpetrated by the master of hoax, P.T. Barnum? A conspiracy to commit murder for fame and fortune? If so, who were the conspirators? Was Matthew Scott, Jumbo’s devoted keeper, petty thief, and clever negotiator, part of a scam? Was Frank Perley, Barnum’s enthusiastic publicist? Henry Ward, his taxidermist? Only Barnum and others in his inner circle know for certain, and they took their certainty to the grave.