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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Hartford Circus Fire - An Audio/Visual Experience

The Hartford Circus fire is the last major circus disaster to happen in the United States. There isn’t much footage of the fire, or too many photos for that matter, because circus personnel smashed cameras during fire aftermath hoping to stop the images from getting publicized. Below I am going to post several videos for you to peruse through that all pertain to the Hartford fire in many different ways.

First up is some actual footage from the fire’s aftermath. There is no sound in this one but you can get a good idea of the extent of the destruction (there are no gruesome images).

Some of you may know who Charles Nelson Reilly was. He was an actor (he passed away a few years ago), but he grew up in Hartford and attended the fire on that fateful day. During one of his comedy tours, The Life of Reilly, he did a segment talking about the events that day – it made me laugh and made me sad too. Here is that segment.

The below video footage is quite possibly the news footage that first brought my attention to the Hartford Circus Fire. This was from 2004 when the 60th anniversary of this tragedy was being marked and the ground was being broken for the memorial.

In 2005 the memorial for the Hartford Circus Fire victims was dedicated. It is located on the exact spot where the big top was located. The trees around the memorial mark the exits to the tent and the main monument is located where the main tent pole was situated. I haven’t had the chance yet to make it there, but it is in my plans for this year – I only work like 5 miles from the site. The below video is a walkthrough of the memorial site.

The final clip isn’t a video, but a radio interview. It is with a survivor of the fire and includes some of the old radio broadcasts about the circus. I think it is always most poignant to hear from those who lived through an event.

Hope these A/V clips helped to give a more well rounded view of this particular event in circus history.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. The clips really bring the enormity of the event to the fore. It is sad to know that in a panic, adults would not take the effort to help little children get out rather than push, shove, and trample them.
    Thank you for the post.

  2. Librarypat - it is tragic to hear how a mob mentality can really take the humanity away from people.


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