The Mercer Museum

mercerA visionary’s concrete castle contains a generous slice of pre-industrial life.

by Chuck Bender
pages 49-52

Walking through the entrance of the Mercer Museum isn’t quite what one would expect from one of the United States’ most complete collections of 18th- and 19th-century tools. “Contemporary Spartan” seems a more fitting description, due to all the glass, polished stone and open space. Once you move through the entry and into the castle that is the museum, that all changes.

Henry Chapman Mercer was born in 1856. It was an extraordinary time and Mercer was an extraordinary man. The Victorian era was in full swing when Mercer was born, and as he grew up he saw the massive changes the Industrial Revolution brought to every aspect of life.

Just as a visitor moving from the entry into the museum is struck by the stark contrast, Mercer’s life and philosophy reflect a similar change. As a youth he traveled frequently with his mother and his aunt throughout southern Italy and the Middle East, but it wasn’t until after he graduated from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania that he developed a true appreciation for those cultures.

Article: Discover another unique Pennsylvania collection at the Wharton Esherick Museum.
Web Site: Learn more about the Mercer Museum by visiting its web site.
To Buy: Be like Henry Mercer and preserve the tools from our past; pick up “Buying and Restoring Hand Tools with Ron Herman.”
Web site: Find out how Laura Swain came to reside at Fonthill, Henry Mercer’s castle-like home.

From February 2014, issue #209

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