Record Unit 7054, Philadelphia Museum Company, Philadelphia Museum Company, 1792, 1808-1842 and undated
The Philadelphia Museum Company had its genesis in the collections of Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), which he placed on view in his Philadelphia home as early as 1786. In 1792, seeking to turn his enterprise into a national museum, Peale formed a Society of Inspectors, including Thomas Jefferson and Edmund Randolph, in an unsuccessful effort to attract private and government support. In 1794, he obtained a ten-year lease to lodge his collections in the American Philosophical Society building on State House Square, and in 1802 the Pennsylvania legislature authorized the Museum to occupy quarters in the State House itself.
Peale's son, Rembrandt, attempted a museum in Baltimore that failed, and attempts by Rubens Peale and Linnaeus Peale to set up museums in New York also failed. The Philadelphia Museum was incorporated in 1821 as the Philadelphia Museum Company. Charles Willson Peale died in 1827, and his sons, chiefly Rubens and Franklin, continued the enterprise in the Philadelphia Arcade, where it remained until the construction of a new building in 1836. Caught in hard economic times and a growing schism between scientific natural history on the one hand and showmanship represented by P. T. Barnum on the other, the Museum went out of existence through sale of its collections in the 1850s.