Historical museum commemorating the Hartford Circus Fire

The Connecticut Museum of Culture and History in Hartford will host a special forum Thursday on the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire.

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Connecticut Museum of Culture and History

HARTFORD, CT – One of the most tragic days in Connecticut history will be remembered Thursday in Hartford, nearly 80 years after 168 men, women and children died amid smoke and flames.


The Connecticut Museum of Culture and History in Hartford, located at 1 Elizabeth St., is hosting a special forum to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the horrific 1944 Hartford Circus Fire.

The program, titled “Hartford Circus Fire Remembered,” is part of the 2024 Woodward Lecture Series, which examines the impact and legacy of natural and man-made disasters in the state’s history.

The program will take place on Thursday, June 6 at 6:00 PM

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for general Connecticut Museum members and free for Connecticut Museum NARM level members and above.

Tickets can be purchased online.

“As we approach the 80th anniversary of the Hartford Circus Fire, the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History will commemorate a disaster that caused the loss of 168 lives and injured hundreds of others,” the museum wrote in an announcement.

Don Massey, author of “A Matter of Degree: The Hartford Circus Fire and the Mystery of Little Miss 1565,” and former Hartford Fire Chief Charles Teale will lead a presentation on the fire.

That will be followed by a conversation moderated by Ilene Frank, deputy executive director and chief strategist of the Connecticut Museum.

The evening will feature items from the Connecticut Museum’s collection on display exclusively for attendees.

The Hartford Circus Fire occurred on July 6, 1944, when Hartford residents headed out for what seemed like a joyful day at the circus, according to the museum.

Then, during a performance, the circus tents suddenly caught fire, causing panic and massive destruction.

“It’s about remembering the lives of those lost, but also about understanding why this event had such an effect on our collective memory, even 80 years later,” said Natalie Belanger, public programs manager at the Connecticut Museum. “We are thrilled to have such authoritative voices on this topic joining us to speak about it.”

Massey’s book documents fire investigator Rick Davey’s identification of one of the fire’s unclaimed victims as Eleanor Emily Cook, and Teale was co-chair of the Hartford Circus Fire Memorial Foundation.

That foundation created a memorial for the victims at the site of the Barbour Street fire.

The Connecticut Museum of Culture and History is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1825 as the state’s premier historical society and since 2015 also serves as the state’s home for support of folk and traditional arts.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click this link.