Little Miss 1565

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Birth: Mar. 17, 1938
Death: Jul. 6, 1944

On the sultry Thursday afternoon of July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, approximately 8,600 persons, most of them women and children, entered the Big Top tent of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus to watch the performance. Shortly after the show began, a small fire broke out along the side of the Big Top, and quickly spread to the roof of the canvas tent, which had been waterproofed with paraffin thinned with white gasoline. As the fire quickly raced over the top of the tent, the panic-stricken audience began a desperate stampede to escape from the few entrances. In less than ten minutes, 168 persons had been killed and over 480 persons severely injured. Two women, a man, and two children were burned beyond recognition, and are buried in the Northwood Cemetery in unidentified graves. One small blonde child, about 8 years old, and identified only with the coroner’s number 1565, was never identified despite a complete lack of burns and no damage to her face. No one claimed the body, despite widespread publicity and publication of her photo in nationwide magazines. The fire is described in detail in the book, “The Circus Fire: A True Story” (2000) by Stewart O’Nan. The cause of the fire was never determined, although in 1950, a man confessed to setting the tent on fire (his account is inaccurate, and no evidence against him could be found). In 1991, Fire Lieutenant and Arson Investigator Rick Davey wrote in his book, “A Matter of Degree” (1991), that he had identified Miss 1565 as Eleanor Emily Cook, daughter of Wesley W. Cook and Mildred Corintha Parsons Cook, however, author Stewart O’Nan disputes this identification, claiming discrepancies in the dental records. She is currently buried in the family plot as Eleanor Cook, next to her brother, Edward, who also died in the fire. Mildred Cook was severely burned in the fire, and thus, was unable to identify her children. The site of the fire, the vacant lot bounded by Barbour Street, Cleveland Avenue, Hampton Street and Kensington Street, is now the Stowe Village Housing Project (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)Cause of death: Harford Circus Fire
Burial:
Northwood Cemetery *
Windsor
Hartford County
Connecticut, USA
*Former burial location
Edit Virtual Cemetery info [?]
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Apr 29, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 21931

Joe added this

I actually remember sitting with my grandmother as she was listening to the news reports and saying her rosary.
The old house was on route 6 which was one of the main roads to Hartford at the time. I remember a steady stream of ambulances going by the house on the way to Hartford. I was not quite 4 years old at the time.
Never did go to a circus even 70 years later!!!!

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5 thoughts on “Little Miss 1565

  1. Wikipedia

    Little Miss 1565

    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.[6] After their deaths, a local flower company continued to decorate the grave.[7] In 1991, the body was declared to be that of Eleanor Emily Cook, despite the fact that her aunt and uncle had examined the body and did not fit the description they provided. 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, who had also died in the fire.[8]

  2. You so often mention the different spellings of your family’s name. While accumulating obits for my Farewell Salutes (as often happens in New England) I located this man in Maine – Robert LaCasse – is it a possible relative?

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