August 26, 2016

WARNING:PHOTO HEAVY POST- The Mercer Museum and Early American Tools

I went to the place where they send good historians when they die.

As you all know, and pretty much anyone who knows me knows, one of my biggest passions in life is how people lived and prospered in the Early American, pre-industrial age. I don't know why it fascinates me so much in this age of "buy everything at a mega-store and hire a professional to do it," but it does. I feel like people have become so reliant on corporations for even the bare necessities of life.

Very few people can service any of the items we use on a daily basis, let alone, build one of these themselves. More often than not, the cry you hear when something breaks is "I'll have to buy a new one." So I am forever amazed at the ingenuity and usefulness of people in a time before industrial machinery was king. Seeing everyday tools and materials from hundreds of years ago just makes me giddy. So you can't imagine the brain explosion I had when I entered the Mercer Museum in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Henry Chapman Mercer was a wealthy eccentric who became very interested in pre-industrial tools and trades. He was fascinated by tools of the past he had heard of but never seen before and became a voracious collector of all things that related to Early American trades. He thought these forgotten, everyday objects were the real story of human progress and he used avant garde methods to display what was essentially trash when he was collecting in around the turn of the century. (If you aren't already packing for your visit to this museum, you should be. There's plenty of time to read this post when you get back.)

The collection currently contains over 40,000 artifacts, only 20,000 of which are on display. The museum is jammed packed with artifacts that relate to over 60 Early American trades, such as farming, textile production, glass making, coopering, shoe making, basket weaving, and ceramics making. Full disclosure: I spent most of the time looking right to left and up and down like a dog when someone is waving bacon in front of its face.      

Mercer Museum

Of course, the only way to display a collection like this is to house it in a seven story, fireproof cement castle, right?

Mercer Museum Cradles

A lot of the collection is suspended from the ceilings, like these cradles and chairs but you can even see a whaleboat from the perspective of the marine life.

Mercer Museum Plows and Mortars

Plows and enormous mortars for grinding.

Mercer Museum Terrapin Tortoise Shell

Tortoise shell and horn item tools.  

Mercer Museum Terrapin Tortoise Shell

Mercer Museum Terrapin Tortoise Shell

Mercer Museum Redware

This is nowhere near all of the redware pottery and slipware on display.

Mercer Museum Glass

Mercer Museum Glass

Mercer Museum General Store

A stocked, early 19th century general store.

Mercer Museum Textile

Wooden textile printing blocks.

Mercer Museum Yokes

Livestock and farming equipment.

Mercer Museum Shoemakers tools

Shoemakers tools.

Mercer Museum Lighting

Oil lamp collection, the oldest of which is about 2,000 years old.

Mercer Museum  Medicine

Early medical equipment.

Mercer Museum Weaving Spinning Wheels

A whole room dedicated to spinning and weaving!

Mercer Museum Muskets

Early guns and gunpowder horns. 

Mercer Museum Powder Horns

Mercer Museum  Carriage

Carriages and bicycles.

Mercer Museum Baskets

Baskets and a miniature wagon.

Mercer Museum instruments

Musical instruments.

Mercer Museum Fireplace Backs

Fireplace backs, many of which dated to the 1700s.

Mercer Museum Gallows

The gallows used in the last hanging in Bucks County in 1914.

Mercer Museum Noose shackes

Mercer Museum Native American

Pre-historic Native American tools.

This is a beautiful, beaded Native American bag, from the temporary exhibit "Long May She Wave: A Graphic History of the American Flag." Forgive me for the upside down photo, I had to take it at an odd angle but the beading was too lovely to pass up.

Apparently, I'm the last one to know about this museum and heard lovely things from people on Facebook about just how awesome it is. It is definitely not one to miss if you are visiting the Philadelphia or Allentown areas. Have you been to the museum? What did you think? 


  1. Wow! You got some fabulous pictures!!

  2. This looks like an awesome museum to visit - - love all the photos!
    Thanks for posting!

  3. I am impressed by the absolutely stellar quality of these pictures. Well done, Stephanie!

    1. Thanks! It was hard because the museum was dark!

  4. I'd like to take a field trip to see this place sometime. My mom was actually born in Doylestown, in the general region where this museum is located. But she moved to New York when she was really young so she doesn't remember the area.

  5. I think a trip to my grandmother in Bethlehem is necessary soon. I would love to see this amazing museum!

  6. I think a trip to my grandmother in Bethlehem is necessary soon. I would love to see this amazing museum! My parents have been but I have not.

  7. You’re so cool! I do not believe I’ve read anything like that before. So great to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!
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  8. My daughter and I were there yesterday Amazing place. Enjoyed everything and there were people there that were so knowledgeable and helpful. Great day.


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