Almost 7,000 fans eagerly packed into the Ringling Brothers big top on July 6, 1944. With a single careless act, an afternoon at the “Greatest Show on Earth” quickly became one of terror and tragedy as the paraffin-coated circus tent caught fire.
Panicked crowds rushed for the few exits, but in minutes, the tent collapsed on those still struggling to escape below.
A total of 168 lives were lost, many of them children, with many more injured and forever scarred by the events.
Hartford and the surrounding communities reeled in the aftermath as investigators searched for the source of the fire and the responsible parties.
Through firsthand accounts, interviews with survivors and a gripping collection of vintage photographs, author Michael Skidgell attempts to make sense of one of Hartford’s worst tragedies.