Talk:Hartford circus fire

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The Stars and Stripes Forever[edit]

The link to John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" takes me to a disambiguation page, and when I tried to change it to link directly to the March, it didn't work (red link). Can somebody fix this? 23:25, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Fixed - worked first time for me :-) Dominic Jackson 14:29, 29 May 2006 (UTC) hi


Can someone pin down what was used to waterproof the tent? It just seems odd to me that in time of war, 6,000 gallons of gas would be available for such a purpose. I also understand from somewhere that the Army had denied Ringling Brothers some type of better, more flame retardant material because it was needed for the war effort. However, after the fire, the Army supplied the circus with the material. Does anyone have a source for that? --As for a source, see the State Fire Marshal report filed at the time. Cmr Hickey obtained detailed testimony from Ringling officials about the annual treatment of the big top at the "sail loft" in Sarasota before each tour. That testimony is available for public review at CT State Library in Hartford.

According to NPR: "It was waterproofed with a mixture of gasoline and wax, causing the tent to be completely consumed in less than 10 minutes." [1]BRIAN0918 • 2007-07-06 13:41Z
A common waterproofing at the time was paraffin mixed with gasoline or kerosene. It may have been the only waterproofing they could get. 6000 gallons of gasoline is not a huge amount compared to what a circus burns. The circus probably had a ration of fuel, and some of it was used for waterproofing.  Randall Bart   Talk  01:42, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

Notable survivors[edit]

Was Emmett Kelly the clown a survivor of the fire? The Wikipedia article for Kelly mentions a famous photo of him trying to extinguish the flames of the circus fire. — Mmathu 02:09, 15 October 2006 (UTC) --Emmett Kelly survived the blaze. The famous photo shows him assisting in the battle against the fire by using water from a bucket, but the fire was already beyond control. Most circus troupers participated in firefighting efforts. Willow2448 5-30-14

Fair use rationale for Image:Htfdcircusfire.jpg[edit]

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BetacommandBot (talk) 07:05, 1 January 2008 (UTC)


This article contains virtually no in-line citations, many unattributed claims and opinions, and a tone suggesting personal essay/research. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:32, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

A large section seems to be WP:OR added by User:Beginning in 2004. (It was the first edit after stub article creation.) —Danorton (talk) 02:51, 31 March 2018 (UTC)
Oh goodness, edits from 14 years ago...I'm afraid my memory won't be great on that! Mea culpa; I didn't know any better then. It looks like I used the links section I created as a bibliography. I could probably retroactively cite a lot using the that. I can't get to it immediately, but I'll do my best. Thanks for flagging me. Beginning (talk) 05:30, 31 March 2018 (UTC)


I have heavily researched this project, partly alongside Don Massey, author of Matter of Degree, who was my mentor as a young writer working on another fire disaster piece. There is no doubt that he and Davey believe 1565 to be Eleanor Emily Cook. According to a first hand story I heard, Mrs. Cook was far too ill for at least six months to even be told of the fates of her dead son and missing daughter. Mrs. Cook left Hartford for good after the fire, so was not subject to the years of newspaper stories while living in Mass. Even so, she was shown no publicity. Apparently, she became very upset at the mention of Eleanor, and refused to believed she had perished. When she did speak of Eleanor, it was of hope that one day she'd simply show up at the door, as if the Circus Fire did not happen. Apparently, she remained in a deep denial for years. This kept her family from even trying to convince that the carefully-taken photos of the girl buried unburned in Hartford known as 1565 were those of Eleanor. Donald Cook thought 1565 was his sister, and in young adulthood, he tried to claim the body, but was blown off by cops. Years later, Rick Davey spent years trying to nail down 1565's identity. Careful examination of the photos show it certainly could be EEC. Davey compared photos of her ears, a very unique identifier, and they were said to be an exact match. There was never a positive identification on teeth, because that would require significant work by a forensic dentist, removing the lower mandible to make such. Looking at the teeth, as O'Nan said happened, would not be enough.

--willow2448 adds: there were claims by O'Nan that there were two dental charts but that is not true. The only other chart would have come from the Cook family dentist, who was out of the country during the post-blaze inquiry and was not subsequently contacted for comparisons. Only one chart exists in the public record, as created by a dentist during on-site reviews of dead victims. These charts were cursory at best, and do not reflect facts known by the Cook family. Such facts include that Eleanor kept all eight of her baby teeth in separate envelopes at home, a fact that conflicts with claims that only a few teeth had erupted...the teeth were already gone, assisting in the proof of age for 1565. Willow 2448 5-30-14//
This fact is according to one of the same dentists who worked at the site of the World Trade Center attacks and other high-profile cases, Dr. Haskell Askin. As far as being a brunette, every photo of EEC I've seen showed her as at least a dark blonde, and she was described as such.
Willow2448 adds: The public record shows that CT State Trooper Sam Freeman took a hair sample from Eleanor's hair brush to CT forensic analyst Lincoln Opper, whose report stated that hair from Eleanor Cook and 1565 were consistent with each other at the medulla and in color...facts on which Davey relied. Willow2448 on 5-30-14.
Athe story goes, an out-of-town relative who hardly knew Eleanor was the one who made the split-second morgue decision that it wasn't Eleanor, and the coroner stated that he didn't feel the woman was qualified to decide either way. Additionally, from what I remember, and this was years ago, 1565 was unburned, but badly trampled to death, altering her facial features somewhat. When Mrs. Cook was very elderly, Davey and her surviving son showed her the photos of 1565, and she caved, finally agreeing it was Eleanor. That's why the body was exhumed and reburied in the family plot. According to Don Massey, Stewart O'Nan contacted Davey when he was first writing his circus fire book, complimenting Davey's research that led to the discovery of Little Miss 1565. Since a first book contract was already in the works, Davey couldn't legally speak to O'Nan, or share the resources and information he had.
Willow2448 adds: Don Massey has the original letter from O'Nan to Davey...and he shows the letter to audiences during public presentations, thus proving O'Nan believed Davey knew " more about the fire than anyone." Willow2448 5-30-14.
According to the story, O'Nan was mad, and added a few harsh sentences about Davey in his book, and making the last sentence something like, "The reason Mrs. Cook never picked up the body was because it was not her daughter." O'Nan's book was released first, and then Davey/Massey re-tooled Matter of Degree for more than a year to rebut the claims O'Nan made about 1565. If a 2005 investigation was looking into O'Nan's claims, they must not have amounted to much, as a half a decade has passed with no change to the formal identity of 1565 as Eleanor Emily Cook. Since the 1565 section quotes no sources, and disparages the reputations of Don Massey and Rick Davey (I believe it says their work is "revisionist fiction"), an editor who knows how to (I do not) should flag this article as not neutral, possibly biased and unverifiable. 05:55, 2 September 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Popartpete (talkcontribs)
Wait a second, I thought the relative who was asked to identify Little 1565 and said it wasn't Eleanor was Marion Parsons, the aunt who had raised her and whom she called "Mom" (her own mother having sent her & siblings to this aunt while she worked). --Bluejay Young (talk) 21:12, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

If that's the case, then who is/was this Sarah Graham that the note on the grave mentioned? (talk) 00:27, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

This is in O'Nan's book. The notes identifying Sarah and her family were deemed a hoax (or a mistake?) when the other lot numbers mentioned turned out to be already-identified people who didn't match up with the names provided in the notes. --Bluejay Young (talk) 21:12, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

William Pond[edit]

I put the entire text of William Pond's email in the article because I know how these things disappear from television news websites. If it is not appropriate I will gladly move it to the talk page. It should be archived. BTW the photos from the station house that he burned were copies. The original pictures are safe.

I have serious doubts that nude morgue photos were on display at a public memorial. Probably it was just the famous headshot -- in which she has a white gown. Apparently Pond was a known troublemaker and did this out of spite, according to firefighters at 14, but it's all on a blog and I can't use it. I am trying to find an official, usable source. --Bluejay Young (talk) 21:12, 30 October 2015 (UTC)


The lede says "attended by approximately 6,800 people" but later text says "about 7,500 to 8,700".  Randall Bart   Talk  01:45, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

This could be an excellent but...[edit]

It is just full of repetition (tautology). No info box. There is hardly a lede, and the so-called "history" section says what is repeated in the other sections. (It's not a history it's what happened) Unless a few hours on one day is substantial enough to be called a "history". Furthermore there are no inline references from reliable third-party sources. So separating fact from fiction is impossible.

This work needs to be done! I don't know anything about this event, so I can't do it but this article is very, very poor at the moment.

Needs a major shake down from top to bottom. (talk) 08:18, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Non-Fiction & Fiction[edit]

While not a fan of Davey & Massey's theories, I'm puzzled as to why the book isn't listed in Non-Fiction & Fiction ??? Irish Melkite (talk) 05:20, 5 May 2014 (UTC) --Willow2448 adds: In every publishing listing, A Matter of Degree is listed as nonfiction. The book contains an Index and includes reprints of most key documents, such as NWS weather report, death certificates, hair sample result, death roster, official CSP report by Sam Freeman regarding 1565 include its second page, omitted from O'Nan's book. This page is key because it states that Freeman saw "four upper second teeth and four lower second teeth" for a total of eight, just as reported by the family to Massey during the writing of Degree. If O'Nan had included that second page, his assertion about the teeth not "matching" would have fallen apart. A true nonfiction writer would have included this data. From willow2448 on 5-30-14.

Oral History[edit]

I recorded an oral history of my mother (judith shapiro) and her recollection of surviving the fire. I have added a synopsis of it to the personal recollection section. Would a direct quote be better? I feel this is worthy of the encyclopedia as it details she and her group evaded the fire. She (7 years old) had to be pushed from the high bleachers by an adult, which provides context around the difficult choices adults had to face to keep their friends and family alive. If anyone feels my posting this herein is in violation of Wiki policies please let me know and I will remove. If there is a better way to make this edit, i'm very open to learning. I have noted within the ref the time code where in the interview the fire is discussed (00:08:23) - again if there is a better way to do that, please let me know. Hhawk (talk) 22:14, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Hartford circus fire/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

According to an article in the National Fire Protection Association publication, The Quarterly, dated July 1944, by Warren Y. Kimball - NFPA Engineer, "The practically new canvas of the "Big Top" had no flameproofing. It had been processed against water by the use of parafin applied with gasoline as a solvent. This was done in late April. It was said to have been the time-honored method of waterproofing used by the circus. The gasoline solvent undoubtedly had evaporated prior to the date of the fire, although possibly some petrolium residues may have remained within the parafin waterproofing."DanCorbett 21:20, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

Substituted at 21:43, 26 June 2016 (UTC)

Requested move 30 March 2017[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Not moved — Martin (MSGJ · talk) 13:26, 6 April 2017 (UTC)

Hartford circus fireHartford Circus Fire – This is a singular event, not a generic noun, and is consistently capitalized in history texts. Move back to original title. oknazevad (talk) 22:40, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

This is a contested technical request (permalink). Anthony Appleyard (talk) 04:47, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
  • @Oknazevad: Better discuss this move request. Anthony Appleyard (talk) 04:47, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
    • Dont know what more I can say except that it is a proper noun and is capitalized in history books. The move was based on error. oknazevad (talk) 05:42, 30 March 2017 (UTC) PS, the ping didn't work, for some reason.
  • Oppose this isn't a brand or scheduled event. It shouldn't be capitalized in any history book. cf LIFE - Jul 17, 1950 - Page 51 "After the Hartford circus fire it was the glowering face of a woman".(and if it were it would only be the C : " Rising from the Flames: The Experience of the Severely Burned Albert Howard Carter III, ‎Jane Arbuckle Petro - 1998 - "Tirone Smith uses the Hartford Circus fire as the dramatic cause for mystery-solving to understand both the events that started the fire and the dilemmas of the characters. ") In ictu oculi (talk) 07:45, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
An event need not be scheduled to be a proper noun; I have no idea where you got that easily-disproven misconception from. And those sources are clearly not good guides, especially the second, which uses a capitalization that reads as though it were a fire at a circus called the Hartford Circus, which it was not. Fact is, it is capitalized as a unique event. oknazevad (talk) 13:50, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
Again, an event need not be scheduled to become a proper noun. Like the Boston Massacre. And even if it were purely descriptive, it's an exceedingly poor descriptive title, as it has nothing unique about the title to indicate what it is describing. oknazevad (talk) 16:01, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
The three words describe the core attributes of the event: that it was a fire in a circus in Hartford. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 09:06, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
Was if the only fire at a circus ever in the history of Hartford? Or one so much more notable than any other that it gets a definite article. Because that's the difference between a common noun and a proper noun when discussing events. oknazevad (talk) 10:41, 31 March 2017 (UTC)


Just to show that I'm not making up that it's capitalized in reliable sources, by the way, here's just a small sample of the variety of sources I've found, including newspapers, documentaries, historical societies, and university libraries.

  • Buffalo News – this one is interesting, because while it uses mixed case after the indefinite article in the headline, the body capitalized as a proper noun after a definite article.

oknazevad (talk) 18:43, 30 March 2017 (UTC)

No doubt they exist, but so do lowercase ones. When usage in sources is mixed, we default to lowercase, avoiding unnecessary caps, per MOS:CAPS. Dicklyon (talk) 04:35, 3 April 2017 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

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