Friday, May 8, 2009

Technological Innovations Claim Lives of Many

So here’s a story that was happening all over, but under-reported outside the work of photographers such as Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis. These photographers documented the dangerous conditions faced by factory workers and masses of immigrants who owed their arrival in overcrowded city tenements to the virtues of mass transportation.
Other technological innovations included electricity, which was a commodity still in the process of research and development at the turn of the century.

My first story involves the sad fate of an Edison Power company lineman who was burnt to a crisp from 4500 volts while working one day (Chronicle, 1902). No doubt it was an incident like this that spurred Edison to advertise the dangers of electricity with displays of animal electrocutions.

The most famous animal to meet such an end was Topsy the Killer Elephant. In 1903 Topsy was slated for death after having killed at least three circus hands in separate incidents (NYT,1903). After electrodes were attached to her legs, it took 10 seconds for the animal to die.

In the blurry photo above, plumes of smoke can be seen rising around the rigid legs of the dying elephant.

One need only look at today's mounds of discarded, outdated computers to see that the practice of rushing an undeveloped new technology to the consumer is still very much with us:

Photo Courtesy of:

These mounds of cast-off products are leaching toxic chemicals and compounds into the environment if they're not being melted down by underpaid workers in unsafe working conditions. We must all be aware of such dangers and guard against becoming victims of unsafe products.


ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE LIVE WIRE :While on Duty Lineman Barns Meets Electric Death. (1902, July 10). San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current File),5. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922) database. (Document ID: 1245629482).&

CONEY ELEPHANT KILLED :Topsy Overcome with Cyanide of Potassium and Electricity. She Was Adam Forepaugh's "Original Baby Elephant" Twenty-eight Years Ago -- Her Keeper, "Whitey," Would Not See Her Die.. (1903, January 5). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 1. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 101963986).

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