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Unidentified: Little Miss 1565 and others from the Hartford Circus Fire

hartford circus fire

The Hartford Circus Fire

The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus was doing a performance in Hartford, Connecticut on July 6, 1944, which is later referred to as the Hartford Circus Fire.  During the performance, where over 7000 people were in attendance, a fire broke out.  Entrance ways were blocked by animal chutes to allow the animals to come and go from the circus arena.  Panic arose and people were trampled, while the wax used to waterproof the tent rained wax down on people trying to escape. Some people were able to escape because the tent was cut open by circus employees or people who happened to have knives on them.  In the end, 168 people were killed.  Although it is not sure how the fire began, it was thought that Robert Dale Segree, who was later arrested for a series of arson fires in 1950 may have purposely set the fires.

Of the list of unidentified are three children and two women and one man, that has never been identified.  If you know of a family member that was last seen in 1944 in Connecticut, please take a look at the unidentified list below.


Little Miss 1565 is the most well-known of the unidentified, mostly because of the post-mortem photograph that was widely distributed, but did not lead to an identification.

Little Miss
Little Miss

#1565 was a white female, 5 to 6 years of age, probably blue eyes; 3′-10″ height, weight 40 pounds; head circumference 20 1/2″, blond or light brown shoulder length curly hair; wearing brown shoes and flowered dress. Dental examination of #1565 shows all baby teeth present except lower central incisors.  No permanent teeth have erupted except lower central incisors.  Please note the real identity of Little Miss 1565 has been ongoing for decades.  After much back and forth, in 1991 she was declared as Miss Eleanor Cook, even though her aunt and uncle had examined the body and stated it was not her. The Connecticut State Police forensics unit compared hair samples and determined they were probably from the same person. The body was exhumed in 1991 and buried next to her brother, Edward Cook who died in the fire.

Emily Cook
A photograph of Eleanor Cook


Unidentified #1510: male, approximately 11 years old, probably white; estimated height of 4′-4″, weight 70 pounds, muscular build; wearing white ribbed shorts and undershirt with shoulder straps; badly burned, 3rd and 4th degree, feet and hands burned off, top of skull missing.  Dental examination of #1510 shows only 3 baby teeth present (upper custids and ,ower left second molar) and five fillings in four teeth.

Unidentified #1503: female, approximately 9 years old, probably white; 3′-11″ height, weight approximately 55 pounds, slender build; light brown hair with red glow; badly burned, 3rd and 4th degree burns, feet and hands missing, skull cap off. Dental examination of #1503 shows that upper and lower permanent incisors and first molars are present; all baby molars are present, with fillings in the four baby second molars; no other fillings.

Unidentified #4512: female, 30 to 35 years of age, possibly black, questionably white, no portion of the skin shows natural color; height 5′-2″ to 5′-5″, approximately 140 to 160 pounds, short and stocky, wide hips; 21 1/2″ head circumference, hair burned off; wearing an ornamental ring with missing stones on right ring finger, a Sterling Silver slave bracelet with crossed R’s and an eagle on the left wrist, and an 18 karat white gold wedding band on left ring finger; lower legs mostly absent, though #4512 was wearing white Physical Culture pumps with solid toes.  Dental examination shows that upper teeth slope forward, all teeth large and strong.

Unidentified #2200: male, age 55 to 60, probably white; height 5′-3″, weight approximately 170 pounds; short, moderate build; 20″ head circumference; posterior head badly burned; feet and hands off, left arm missing from elbow; fractured mandible, both sides, probably old. Dental examination of #2200 shows evidence of regular dental care, including extensive gold work and bridges.

Unidentified #2109: white woman, age 30+; 5′-1″ to 5′-5″ height, weight approximately 148 pounds, small boned and stocky; 22″ head circumference, light brown and blonde hair; eyes and teeth burned; hands and fingers burned; lower extremities not burned; hips wide, bust large, hands and wrists small; right rectus scar, approximately 8 years old; wearing pink pants, a heavy laced Spencer corset, and tan rayon socks.  Dental examination of #2109 shows gold crowns on left upper lateral incisor and right lateral incisor, and gold filling on right and left side of lower middle incisor.

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