Mercer Museum

84 South Pine Street
Doylestown, PA 18901



Inspired by the vision and creativity of Henry C. Mercer (1856-1930), it is the mission of the Bucks County Historical Society to cultivate among its many audiences a broad appreciation and awareness of the past, helping people find stories and meanings that both sustain them in the present and aid them in approaching the future.


The Bucks County Historical Society is a dynamic, audience-driven educational organization that involves visitors in meaningful explorations of the past, present, and future through active engagement with its dramatic buildings and historical collections. We encourage our visitors to view history from multiple perspectives and multiple disciplines, and in relation to their own communities and their own lives. The organization recognizes that it must offer innovative, participatory and changing experiences using its own and other private or public collections in order to attract and involve diverse segments of local, regional and national audiences.

The BCHS strives to foster an environment that encourages change, respect for diversity, and continued growth while providing the human, physical and financial resources to compete within a rapidly changing and highly competitive environment. The organization pledges its commitment to the highest ethical and professional standards. Our museums and library strive to offer the most exciting, engaging and unique history experiences in the Delaware Valley making the BCHS a leader in the museum field.


By 1897 handmade objects were being discarded in favor of new machine-made goods. Historian and archaeologist Henry Mercer (1856-1930) recognized the need to collect and preserve the outmoded material of daily life in America before it was swept away by the Industrial Revolution. Mercer gathered almost 30,000 items ranging from hand tools to horse-drawn vehicles and assembled this encyclopedic collection in a system of his own devising. To enhance the collection's educational value, and to share it with the public, Mercer decided to design and build a museum to display the artifacts.

In 1916, Mercer erected a 6-story concrete castle. The towering central atrium of the Museum was used to hang the largest objects such as a whale boat, stage coach and Conestoga wagon. On each level surrounding the court, smaller exhibits were installed in a warren of alcoves, niches and rooms according to Mercer's classifications -- healing arts, tinsmithing, dairying, illumination and so on. The end result of the building is a unique interior that is both logical and provocative. It requires the visitor to view objects in a new way.

As gifts to the Bucks County Historical Society, the collection and building were maintained by the trustees without benefit of professional staff until 1971. With a resurgence of interest in early American crafts, an ambitious program to develop and promote the Mercer Museum as an institution of national significance was then undertaken. The Museum has made major advances in collections management and care, exhibitions and interpretation bringing the Museum in line with contemporary standards while, at the same time, respecting the historical integrity of the site. In 1985, the Mercer Museum was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and achieved subsequent accreditation by the American Association of Museums in 2005.

The Board of Trustees successfully completed a Capital Campaign in 1994 to address restoration needs. The Museum announced in October 2006 a $10M Capital Campaign for expanded exhibit and program space. Mercer's collection and museum are enjoyed annually by more than 65,000 visitors from around the world. The collection has grown to some 40,000 objects. Among museum professionals, technology scholars, and tool collectors, the collection is considered to be the most complete of its kind in America. Interactive programs provide insights into early American history in enjoyable and educational ways, and changing exhibits provide a reason for visitors to return.

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