Bridgeport, CT Barnum's Circus Fire, Nov 1887

BARNUM'S CIRCUS BURNED.

THE GREAT SHOW'S WINTER QUARTERS AT BRIDGEPORT, CONN., FURNISHES HIGH CARNIVAL FOR THE FIRE FIEND -- MANY VALUABLE ANIMALS AMONG THEM THE SACRED WHITE ELEPHANT, CONSUMED -- OTHERS ESCAPE, CREATING HAVOC IN THE STREETS.

Bridgeport, Conn., Nov. 24. -- The main building of Barnum & Bailey's "Greatest Show on Earth" was entirely destroyed by fire last evening. About 10:30 o'clock an alarm was sounded, quickly followed by a general alarm, and thousands of people were drawn to the spot. In less than thirty minutes the large building, which was 600 by 200 feet and two stories in height, was entirely consumed. The first intimation of the fire was given by the roaring of the lions and tigers, which seemed to realize the impending danger. Next the elephants struggled in their chains, but in an incredibly short time the flames swept from one end of the huge structure to the other. There were six watchmen employed on the premises, but they were helpless to check the flames. Five of the watchmen have reported, but one is missing. The upper portion of the building was filled with hay and all the paraphernalia of the great show. Before the first alarm ceased sounding the whole building was enveloped in fire, and no one dared to approach the building, being fearful of the crazed animals.
Three elephants were burned up and thirty-six broke from their fastenings and dashed through the sides of the burning building. Their roars and trumpetings and sounds of torment were terrific. Six elephants and a large African hippopotamus rushed about the streets presenting a sickening appearance. Their sides were burned and great pieces of flesh a foot square fell off. Thirty elephants and one large lion made their escape and have started off across the country toward Fairfield and Easton.
Great alarm has seized many residents of the west end, and they have taken refuge within their houses with windows barred. WILLIAM NEWMAN
the elephant trainer, is out of town, and the keepers were not able in the excitement to herd the frightened animals. In the horse-room were all the ring animals, trained stallions, ponies, etc., for the entire show, and these too were all destroyed. In the cat-room were the birds, monkeys, three rhinoccroses, hyenas, tigers, lions, and all the menagerie, which fell a prey to the flames. So rapidly did the flames leap across the main building that the firemen made no attempt to save it, but turned their streams upon the chariot buildings and car sheds, whic they succeeded in saving, but the heat was so intense that this was accomplished with the greatest difficulty.
The watchman making his round discovered the fire and started to give the alarm, when some unknown person hit him on the head with a blunt instrument, felling him to the ground and cutting a number of severe gashes in his head. He staggered to his feet and gave the alarm, enabling the other watchmen in the building, who were preparing for bed, to escape. One of the three elephants burned was the famous "sacred white elephant." The lion, which the police attempted to kill at the time the fire broke out, was afterward found in a barn devouring a cow which he had killed. He was shot. At 1 a.m. the fire was out.
The total loss is estimated at $700,000, upon which there was but $100,000 insurance. Before the building went down Barnum's agents were busy making arrangements for obtaining a new lot of attractions to supply the loss. Mr. Brothwell, Barnum's Bridgeport agent, said that the show building would be rebuilt, but not in Bridgeport. The great show would probably go to Jersey City, where greater railroad facilities could be had.

Waterloo Courier Iowa 1887-11-30