The Mütter Museum – The Strangest of the Philadelphia Museums

While the Mütter Museum is - certainly - not for the squeamish, it is among the most interesting places to visit in Philadelphia. Learn more about the College of Physicians of Philadelphia's remarkable - in both morbidity and size - collection of medical anomalies...

History of the Mütter Museum

The Museum's namesake was the pre-Civil War physician, Thomas Dent Mütter (BTW - the two dots over the "u" in his name represent, in the German language, what is known as an umlade). No less an authority than the National Institute of Health, describes the German physician as "one of the pioneers of plastic surgery."

Here's a timeline of key events in the Mütter Museum's captivating history:

1787 - The College of Physicians of Philadelphia - the oldest professional medical organization in America - is formed by two dozen physicians, in what was then America's largest city. The 24 doctors vow to:

"advance the science of medicine and to thereby lessen human misery, by investigating the diseases and remedies which are peculiar to our country" and further "order and uniformity in the practice of Physick."

Three of the founders were John Redman, the first president of the College; John Morgan, the founder of America's first medical school, and Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, 11 years earlier. Rush, however, was the leading force in the creation of the College.

Ironically, this organization is founded during the same year, as the Constitutional Convention adopts the U.S. Constitution, at what is now known as Independence Hall.

(The delegates were also doing their best, to advance the science of government and to thereby lessen human misery, by investigating the political diseases and remedies which are peculiar to our country, and further order and uniformity in the practice of Politics.)

March 9, 1811 - Mütter is born in Richmond, Virginia.

1849 - Dr. Isaac Parrish makes a proposal to the College of Physicians: a collection of various pathological specimens should be preserved, in order to promote the interests of science. The College agrees, and he starts to do so.

1852 - Dr. Parrish dies, and the collection falls dormant as a result.

1858 - Mütter - a retired professor of surgery at nearby Jefferson Medical College - decides to donate his macabre collection of human medical artifacts, to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

But Mütter doesn't just hand over his collection to the College - he also throws in a donation of $30,000 - the equivalent of $809,000, today, to curate the collection. His generosity immediately makes the collection one of major national significance.

Thomas Hewson Bache curates the collection, and supervises its continued growth and ever more abundant accumulation of oddities.

1859 - After his highly generous - and medically valuable - bequest, Mütter dies, a year before the election of Abraham Lincoln and the onset of the Civil War.


Traveling to the Mütter Museum

SEPTA

If you opt for mass transit, you can easily reach the Mütter Museum by either SEPTA City Transit Division (i.e., buses, the el, the subway, or trolleys). You can also use SEPTA Regional Rail (i.e., "the train"). Nearly all Regional Rail trains stop at Suburban Station - located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Once you've disembarked at Suburban Station, it is an easy walk to the Mütter Museum - only 0.6 miles, about 12 minutes or so. You just head west on either JFK or Market Street, until you get to the intersection of either 22nd and JFK or 22nd and Market. Turn left and head down south one block, toward Chestnut. You'll see it.

If you are traveling in from out of town via Amtrak, or if you are riding SEPTA Regional Rail and just prefer to get off at 30th Street Station - located at 30th and Market Streets. Just head east on Market Street for eight blocks, until you get to 22nd and Market, and turn left down 22nd Street, going south. The walk is roughly the same, about 0.5 miles.

However, unless you're coming directly from an Amtrak train, we'd recommend Suburban Station, as the streets are far easier to navigate and it won't require you to cross the Schuylkill River.

By Car

If you are coming on a weekend, you have a better chance at securing parking than you would during the week, but you do have some parking options, and you can give it a try. There are a lot of metered spaces, and several paid parking lots, including one on 21st Street, behind the College.

Also, it's a several-block walk from either Suburban Station or 30th Street Station - and if the weather is excessively hot, humid, cold, or raining (as can often be the case in Philadelphia), you might not be up for the long walk. So you might be better off driving.

Visitor Information - Hours and Admission

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

19 S. 22nd Street

Philadelphia, PA

215.563.3737

Adults - $14

Children (6-17), Senior Citizens (65+), Students and Military with valid ID - $10

Children under 6 are free, but we wouldn't recommend it for them, anyway.

The Mütter Museum is open daily, from 10 AM - 5 PM, 362 days a year. The only three days on which it is closed, are Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. (And who would really want to see what the Mütter Museum has to offer on those days, anyhow?) You can also visit the official Mütter Museum web site, by clicking here.


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