70 Years Later, the Hartford Circus Fire Still Burns
On July 6, 1944, a circus tent in the North End of Hartford caught fire. The tent covered three blocks. It was gone in six minutes.
Roughly 170 people died. You'll understand my imprecision as we go along. Five employees of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and served minimal prison sentences. One of them, James Haley, was so unscarred by this that he later served for 24 years in Congress.
The symbol of the tragedy was Little Miss 1565, a young girl whose remains were never claimed, and were not firmly identified for almost 50 years. During that time, two Hartford detectives brought flowers to her unmarked grave each anniversary of the fire.
What are your memories of the fire? Comment below, email Colin@wnpr.org, or tweet @wnprcolin.
- Don Massey is the author and screenwriter of A Matter of Degree, and a member of the Circus Fire Memorial Committee
- Mary-Ann Tirone Smith is the author of Masters of Illusions: A Novel of the Connecticut Circus Fire
- Gary Payne is the National President Elect of the Circus Fans Association of America, which was formed in 1926