Tuesday, April 4, 2017

C - The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855


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Okay, I know I wrote about this one before. But after the longer posts from yesterday and the day before, I figured I could keep it brief today. Plus, there's no way I couldn't mention this in a series on "Weird Canadian History."

You can click on the link to get the full story, but here's the short version: On July 12, 1855, the Hook and Ladder Volunteer Fire Department visited a brothel in downtown Toronto. Important things to know about the Hook and Ladder:


  1. They were drunk
  2. They were Irish
  3. Two weeks prior they had got into a fistfight with a rival firehouse when both groups showed up to battle the same blaze
Needless to say, these guys were obviously spoiling for a fight, like, all the time. Guess who else was patronizing the brothel that fateful night? Mother-flippin' clowns from the traveling circus that just happened to be visiting town that week. Of course, one of the firefighters picked a fight with one of the clowns (as you would), but then hilarity ensued as the carnies proceeded to beat the ever-lovin' beejezus out of the firemen.

Instead of taking their beating with the shame that was so sorely deserved, the firefighters rounded up as many of their countrymen as they could and marched on the circus tents the next day. A violent riot resulted as the circus tents were burned and the carnies were run out of town. The police, themselves being made-up mostly of good Irish boys themselves, did nothing to stop the chaos. 

The only redeeming factor of the resulting brouhaha was that the city was forced to rebuild their highly corrupt protective services (they basically fired the entire police force), but nothing will remove the black, hilarious mark from the city's history.

The part I'll never understand: The circus had tigers in the show. TIGERS. Why didn't they turn them loose? I don't care how many Irishmen you bring, tigers trump drunken firemen every time.

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