Who is Barnum to YOU?
Today we are welcoming longtime Barnum Museum friend and champion, Bruce Hawley!
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“Who is BARNUM to YOU?” is a special series that welcomes guest celebrities from all aspects of our community and beyond in lively discussions about personal connections, insights, and inspirations from Barnum’s life and times.
If you ever wondered, yes indeed! There are descendants of Mr. Barnum walking amongst us! Bruce E. Hawley, a distant cousin of Phineas Taylor Barnum, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut with “sawdust in his veins.” His great grandfather Edwin Noble worked as a wheelwright in the Barnum & Bailey Circus Winter Quarters in Bridgeport from 1896 until the early 1900s, and Bruce’s great uncle, William “Bill” Lewis, as well as several other relatives worked as performers and staffers on the “Barnum Show.” In keeping with his circus heritage, Bruce learned basic trapeze and wire walking skills as a boy and built a miniature circus that was later displayed in the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport for about 10 years. He became president of the Friends of the Barnum Museum in the 1980s.
Like his distant cousin P.T., Bruce Hawley has had many careers, pursuing life with gusto, passion and service to his fellow countrymen. Bruce retired in 2005 from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps as a brigadier general after 34 years of active duty and reserve service. We thank him for his time and sacrifice in dedication to our country.
Bruce practiced and taught law, and he was senior executive in a multinational title insurance company. But the circus is in his blood! Bruce has a deep love for the artistry, history and science of the circus. His lifelong devotion to the craft, nuances, and complexities of circus arts heralds Bruce as one of our nation’s leading circus entertainment aficionados and he is regularly sought as a guide, advisor and muse for new, innovative projects.
Bruce is a member of the Board of Directors of the Barnum Museum Foundation and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Circus Historical Society. He co-chaired both the 2015 Worldwide Circus Summit and the 2019 Circus Fans Association national convention.
In the 1980s, Bruce helped save the Barnum Museum from pending demolition in his role as president of the Friends of the Barnum Museum. There are few fitting words to thank him for all he’s done!
“P.T. Barnum was an inspiration to me in many ways. Barnum’s awesome creativity, high energy, community mindedness and indefatigable spirit to carry on even after adversity are life lessons worth emulating.” Bruce Hawley, 2020
Circus Historical Society: https://circushistory.org/
Circus Fans Association: http://new.circusfans.org/
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