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HISTORY LIVES: National Pet Day


Henry Mercer loved dogs, especially Chesapeake Bay retrievers. He had many of these dogs, and his favorite at the time of the construction of the Mercer Museum was Rollo. Mercer allowed Rollo to run through the building site, and his enormous paws left equally large prints in the wet concrete. These paw prints are still evident to visitors today, at the museum as well as at Fonthill, both of which feature “Rollo’s Stairs.”

In Mercer’s home at Fonthill, photographs of dogs adorned the walls testifying to the deep affection he held for his canine companions. In 1930, a Harvard classmate wrote of Mercer, “His dogs were friends to him and he treated them with tenderness.” In a letter to a friend, Mercer wrote of how dogs had made “so great a difference in my life … their intelligence and affection which has repaid me a hundredfold for my trouble…” It is obvious that he derived affection, as well as companionship, from his furry friends.

Upon their deaths, Mercer mourned their passing. When Rollo died in 1916, he was buried along the southern wall of the Tileworks, “under the wisteria vine.” The lush vine did so well, Mercer would say, because his beloved dog Rollo was buried beneath its roots. Although no tombstones mark the final resting place of Rollo or any other pet that died at Fonthill, we can be assured that their memories remained steadfast in the heart and mind of their master. Henry Mercer wrote in one moving tribute, “Dear old Rollo died under the cherry tree in front of Fonthill. . .The cherry blossoms were not yet out on that sad day. May I meet you again where they are in full bloom, dear old BOY!”


“Memoriam for the Mercer Family Pets,” Janeen White, Newsletter of the Bucks County Historical Society, Summer-Fall 2015.

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