70 Years After The Hartford Circus Fire

70 years ago today, many parents took their excited children to the circus in Hartford, Connecticut. A day of family fun turned into a nightmare when a fire broke out under the Big Top. Though thousands of people escaped the smoke and flames, hundreds were injured, and 170 people lost their lives. Many of the victims were women and children.

I first heard about the Hartford Circus Fire over ten years ago while I was exploring random books at a library. I started thinking about what it must have been like to be a child at the circus that day. I wondered how many kids were at the circus celebrating a birthday. I wondered how many became orphans on their birthdays. I wondered, and then I wrote. I wrote and then I wondered. Eventually, I published a novel. And yet, still, I wondered.

Today, when my husband surprised our kids with a trip to a family fun park, I couldn’t stop thinking about the date. I wondered how many fathers surprised their kids with tickets to the circus 70 years ago. I wondered how many returned home alone that day. I wondered and then I wrote. It seems I’ll never get that circus off my mind.

2 thoughts on “70 Years After The Hartford Circus Fire

  1. What a tragedy. I thought about this about a week before the anniversary then not again til today. Can’t imagine what it was like that day for those involved. What is eerie though is the way there were three major fires in the early to mid 1940s, the Winecoff Hotel fire in Atlanta in ’42, the Hartford Circus fire in’44, and then the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston in ’46. Eerie.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Nick. I’m going to have to do some research about those other fires. Maybe I’ll find something to inspire another story or book, or even a non-fiction piece. Sometimes I forget that my own characters are just made up people. But yesterday on a Facebook page dedicated to the Hartford Circus Fire, I saw a picture of a gravestone for a boy named “Peter” who died in the fire. It was a very emotional moment for me because the father in my book is named Peter and he was a child survivor from the fire. Eerie.


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