The Hartford circus fire, which occurred on July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, was one of the worst fire disasters in the history of the United States. The fire occurred during an afternoon performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that was attended by approximately 7,000 people.
The best-known victim of the circus fire was a young blonde girl wearing a white dress. She is known only as “Little Miss 1565”, named after the number assigned to her body at the city’s makeshift morgue. Oddly well preserved even after her death, her face has become arguably the most familiar image of the fire.
Her true identity has been a topic of debate and frustration in the Hartford area since the fire occurred. She was buried without a name in Hartford’s Northwood cemetery, where a victims’ memorial also stands. Two police investigators, Sgts. Thomas Barber and Edward Lowe, photographed her and took fingerprints, footprints, and dental charts. Despite massive publicity and repeated displays of the famous photograph in nationwide magazines, she was never claimed. Barber and Lowe spent the rest of their lives trying to identify her. They decorated her grave with flowers each Christmas, Memorial Day, and July 6. After their deaths, a local flower company continued to decorate the grave.
In 1981, Lowe’s widow announced that Lowe had identified the child and contacted her family, but they had requested no publicity. In 1987, someone left a note on 1565’s gravestone reading Sarah Graham is her Name! 7-6-38 DOB, 6 years, Twin. Notes on nearby gravestones indicated that her twin brother and other relatives were buried close by.
In 1991, arson investigator Rick Davey (along with co-writer Don Massey) published “A Matter of Degree: The Hartford Circus Fire and Mystery of Little Miss 1565”, in which he claims the girl’s name was Eleanor Emily Cook and that she was from Massachusetts. MORE.