The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855

It seems the clowns picked the wrong brothel.

This one was a hangout for some of the men in a local volunteer fire brigade: The Hook & Ladder Firefighting Company. [...]

No one seems to agree on exactly how the fight at the brothel got started. Some blame a particularly loudmouthed clown. Some say the clowns cut in line -- or knocked the hat off a fireman's head. But this much is clear: that night, the clowns kicked some firefighting ass. At least two of the firemen were seriously injury, dragged out of the brothel to safety as the Hook & Ladder crew retreated. For the rest of the night, the clowns could drink and screw in peace. [...]

By the time they got there, it had started. People were throwing stones. And while the circus performers and the carnies were apparently able to hold the mob off for a while, it couldn't last. Eventually, the crowd overwhelmed them. And when the Hook & Ladders arrived, all hell broke loose. They stormed the circus with pikes and axes, overturned wagons, pulled down the tents and the Big Top and set them on fire. They beat clowns to a pulp. Circus folk ran for their lives. Some dove into the lake for safety. It was mayhem.

It took the mayor to settle things down. He came to the Fair Green in person, kept a fireman from killing a clown with an axe by grabbing it out of his hands, and called in the militia to take control of the situation. Once things had calmed down, the circus performers came back for their belongings and then ran like hell.

The police had done pretty much nothing. They just watched. Even Chief Sherwood himself had eventually shown up, but could only claim to have stopped the rioters from setting fire to the cages of the animals. Of the 17 people who were charged in the riot, only one was ever convicted. All of the police who were at the scene claimed they couldn't remember any of the Orangemen who had been there. Just like they had a few weeks earlier, after the Fireman's Riot on Church.

Previously, previously.

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7 Responses:

  1. Steve Allen says:

    Sometimes even larger crowds failed to remember -- "The February term of 1867, of the Circuit Court ... tried by a jury and the defendants were acquitted. Although it was claimed that over five hundred persons were present and witnessed the transaction, no witness was produced, although many were examined and testified that they were present and witnessed the hanging as previously stated, who were able to state who the parties were that hung the man. The excitement and confusion seemed to have been so great that one one knew how or by whom the hanging was done."

    • Dusk says:

      Also related:

      In conversations with family members, seventy-one potential witnesses claimed to have been in the pub's toilets at the time of the attacks. As the toilet measures just four feet by three feet, this led to the toilets being dubbed the TARDIS, after the time machine in the television series Doctor Who, which is much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

      -- Wikipedia: "Murder of Robert McCartney"

  2. MrEricSir says:

    Sounds like your average ICP concert.

  3. phuzz says:

    Some say the clowns [...] knocked the hat off a fireman's head

    In my head they did this by turning round with a ladder on their shoulder.

  4. John says:

    My compliments to the brothel workers for their stamina.

    You know what they say about men with big feet.

  5. Gordo says:

    In reference, this is a picture of a innkeeper of that time, Joseph Bloore. A major street was named after and possibly the inspiration for the Game Of Thrones White Walkers.

    Pretty sure he could handle a few Carnies and Orangemen by his icy glare alone.

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