Wadsworth Atheneum


On July 6, 1944, thousands of fans made their way to Barbour Street in Hartford, Connecticut, to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performance. Not long after the show's start, a fire broke out and spread rapidly as panicked circus-goers pushed and scrambled to escape. Within 10 minutes the entire big top had burned to the ground, and 167 people never went home.

This book recounts the true story of one of the worst fire disasters in US history. It follows the tragic stories of the Cook family - including children Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience that day - and 15-year-old Robert Segee, a circus employee with an incendiary past. 

Combining a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and vivid details about life in World war II-era America, Big Top Burning is sure to intrigue any history or real-life mystery fan.

Details: By Laura A. Woollett

published 2015, 176 pages, hardcover

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