The Mercer Museum Research Library and Collection ScopeThe Mercer Museum Research Library is devoted to collecting and preserving historic documents and materials. The collection scope of the research library is the history and culture of Bucks County; the history of trades, crafts, and artifacts of everyday life before c. 1850; and the life of Henry C. Mercer (1856-1930), his accomplishments, and his place in the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Our collection can be utilized for genealogical and property research, along with topics related to Mercer’s areas of interest. Access to the Research Library is included in a museum entrance ticket or museum membership.
The Mission of the LibraryWhether referred to as the “Archives,” “Library,” “Spruance Library,” or the “Mercer Research Library,” the mission of this arm of the Bucks County Historical Society has remained consistent: The librarian shall have charge of the books, papers, manuscripts, and other literary matter whether owned by, or loaned to the society, arrange such matter in a proper and convenient order, and catalog the same with the names of the donors, or lenders. (BCHS Constitution, Article VIII – The Library) This photograph shows Bucks County Historical Society librarian Cora “Peg” Decker.
Genealogical ResearchThe Mercer Museum Research Library is a treasure trove of important genealogical resources. These sources include deeds, wills, birth or death certificates, marriage certificates, newspapers, church records, genealogical research files, maps, photographs, and manuscript collections. We are also the depository for Bucks County government records dating from 1683 to 1910. You can complete genealogical research in person or through our Research by Mail Service.
Digital Services and Collection ImagesThe Research Library has an extensive collection of historical images. The collection includes photographs of private residences, storefronts, churches, schools, farms, landscapes, and portraits related to Bucks County and its citizens. Images from the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle collections may be requested through our Digital Services department for personal use, research purposes, or for publication. Researchers can use our online catalog RolloPAC to access thumbnail images of digitized museum and archival collection items. This particular photograph is from 1947 and shows a woman using Milton Rutherford's camera.
Our Online Catalog, RolloPACRolloPAC, our online catalog, provides access to information about artifacts, books, documents, images and other materials in the holdings of the Mercer Museum and Library and Fonthill Castle. RolloPAC is added to and updated regularly as collections are cataloged and processed. RolloPAC is named after one of Henry C. Mercer’s favorite dogs, Rollo! Henry Mercer loved dogs, and his favorite breed was the Chesapeake Bay retriever. Rollo was Mercer’s companion during the construction of the Mercer Museum. Currently, RolloPAC includes information about the Library’s collection of books, bound manuscripts (diaries, account books, ledgers, photo albums), several thousand postcards, the Rutherford photograph collection, and manuscript collections, including the finding-aid to the Henry C. Mercer Papers. It also provides access to the catalog records of thousands of artifacts in the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle collections.
The Elkins BuildingThe first collection of books and archival materials was housed in the Historical Society’s “History Room,” located in the Doylestown Court House. Before long, discussions about the need for a larger space for the growing collection, plus concerns about security and accommodating researchers appeared in the Society’s meeting minutes. In 1904, the Bucks County Historical Society had a new home with the construction of the Elkins Building. Built on land purchased, in part, with funds donated by the Grier family, the new building provided more space for the library and archives. At about the same time, a library acquisition fund was established.
The Old LibraryThe Mercer Museum Research Library is attached to the original room that Henry C. Mercer designed in 1916 to house the library collection of the Bucks County Historical Society. Room 25, now affectionately called the “Old Library” was built to accommodate the growing collection that could no longer be contained in the Elkins Building. Mercer also designed the library to also display beautiful tiles produced by the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works. Bucks County waterways are spelled out around columns, town names are emblazoned on the ceiling, and township emblems help decorate the room. Mosaics set into the ceiling portray historical events such as Washington crossing the Delaware, or the arrival of the earliest Quaker settlers. The Old Library can be accessed through the Research Library, is open to researchers, and still holds part of our book collection.
Warren S. Ely, First Librarian of Bucks County Historical SocietyWarren Smedley Ely was an amateur historian and genealogist in Bucks County. He was born on October 6, 1855, at his family's farm in Solebury Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ely's affiliation with the Bucks County Historical Society began in 1897 when he joined as a member. In 1901 he became the Historical Society’s first appointed librarian. Ely made the first attempts at systematically organizing the library and archival collections for better accessibility. During his membership, he presented twenty papers to the Society and was elected to its board of directors in 1922, which he served until his death. He resigned from his position as a librarian in May of 1934 due to poor health. Ely died on March 9, 1936.
1930s Library ExpansionsEventually, the library and archival collection outgrew what Henry Mercer had originally designed. With the support of librarian Warren S. Ely, local Doylestown architect A. Oscar Martin was brought in to design a larger space to house the materials. In 1934 the library building was expanded by the addition of the Reading Room. When completed the new building was connected to Mercer’s “castle” (and the original library) by a bridge 12 feet in width and 16 feet in length, which allowed vehicle traffic to drive underneath, and around the original castle. Another expansion project was completed in 1937, which today holds the microfilm room, the periodical room, and the map room.
Librarian George MacReynoldsGeorge MacReynolds was born on August 25, 1861, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He served as the librarian for the Bucks County Historical Society from 1934 to 1950. Before his appointment as librarian, George MacReynolds had been a strong supporter of the Historical Society and had contributed his skills as a researcher and writer. Among some of his writings is the first edition of Place Names in Bucks County (1942), and the second edition of The New Doane Book: Bucks County’s Bandittories of the Revolution (1952). MacReynolds took special care in documenting everything donated and purchased for the library, recording the information in ledger books. Prior to his tenure, acquisitions were simply reported out and enumerated at the Society’s board meetings. George MacReynolds died on October 27, 1950, and is buried in Saint James Church Cemetery in Chalfont, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This photograph shows MacReynolds working in his office.
1990s Library ExpansionBetsy Smith was the head librarian at the Bucks County Historical Society from 1994 to 2001. Soon into her tenure, she oversaw another library expansion project. The 1990s library improvements consisted of adding a mezzanine, adding to the Reading Room to provide for additional storage and workspace, plus a secure, temperature and humidity-controlled vault for sensitive archival materials. This expansion was a large undertaking. It required the removal of thousands of books, plus hundreds of manuscripts and special collections during construction. Once the renovations were completed, all were returned and re-installed in an orderly fashion on new shelves and storage furniture. This image shows the Reading Room in 1991 prior to the addition of the balcony.
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