The Hartford Circus Fire was a turning point: it revolutionized fire codes and
fireproofing, mass tort law and arbitration, and allowed for more technology sharing
between the military and commoners. We encountered a teacher from MN last year who
teaches for the circus. She told us about the Hartford Circus Fire, which immediately
intrigued us because of our relationship with a fellow church member and great, great,
great granddaughter of P.T. Barnum. As we learned more about it, we quickly realized
this event had far-reaching effects beyond just Connecticut.
We first read Stewart O'Nan's book, The Circus Fire; a True Story of an
American Tragedy and others. We then went to the Connecticut State Library and
Archives seven times, and found newspaper articles, court cases, pictures, and survivor
accounts. We read, The Great Harford Circus Fire, A Creative Settlement of Mass
Disasters, and then interviewed Judge Henry Cohn, an author.
Judge Cohn allowed us to
research mass tort cases in the Superior Court's law library. Our friend, Mrs. Biggs, put
us in contact with Ms. Kathy Maher, curator of the Barnum museum. We had a private
interview, giving us background information about Barnum and his traveling menagerie.
We attended a workshop at the Old Connecticut State House where we obtained the idea
for the turning panels on our board. We went to the Connecticut Historical Society and
found many items, including a program from the day of the fire, as well as a peanut bag.
Rebecca Taber-Conover led us to former chief Mr. Charles Teale, who shared many
stories and fact about the fire and told us about Connecticut and National fire codes.
Later, we called Mr. Richard Epps to get a first hand interview from a survivor. We
visited survivor Mrs. Joan Conlin Homa and interviewed her about...