As the nineteenth century ended and the twentieth century began, the United States was in the midst of a complete change in its manufacturing – the technologically-powered Second Industrial Revolution. Many of the items that are considered commonplace in our lives today had their start during this time: bicycles, vulcanized rubber, widespread use of electricity, gasoline, steam turbines, and the diesel engine, among others. Yet advancements in one area can lead to declines in another. In this case, many of the jobs that had existed for hundreds of years were coming to an end, the artisans’ and craft workers’ skills no longer in demand. With the rise of vulcanized rubber came then beginning of the end of the wagon wheel. The advent of petroleum-based fuels meant that whale oil was no longer in demand, and with it, the end of whaling as a large-scale industry. Widespread electrification of cities and towns meant a decrease in the number of candles that would be needed to light buildings and homes. And on. And on. And on.
Henry Chapman Mercer spent his life ensuring that these trades would not be forgotten. After attending Harvard University and then completing his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Mercer left the field of law and apprenticed to learn tile making. His tiles were greatly in demand, providing him with a lucrative career. He used his earnings to seek to preserve the tools and artifacts of industries that were dying. In 1904, he built the Mercer Museum, a seven-story museum, made entirely of concrete. Created to house his growing collection of antiques, the 114-year old Mercer Museum is now a National Historic Landmark (via Wikipedia). After almost a week of rain and thunderstorms, I took advantage of a clear (if hot) day to travel to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and check out this unique site.
Before beginning, however, a few automotive updates are in order:
The Mercer Museum is a fascinating time capsule of American history, of trades and crafts that would have otherwise been forgotten and faded into history. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Sundays from noon until 5:00 pm. Admission is $15 for an adult, $13 for seniors, children ages 6-17 are $8, and children 5 and under can enter for free. If you enjoy history or exploring how previous generations created the everyday tools and objects necessary for their lives, this is an excellent museum to tour. I’ll definitely be returning to Doylestown to visit the other buildings of Henry Mercer’s life.
Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!