York County Agricultural & Industrial Museum
Part of the York County Heritage Trust, which also organizes the Bonham House, Fire Museum, and the Historical Society Museum in York, the Agricultural & Industrial Museum introduces visitors to York County's many contributions to national agricultural and industrial progress over the course of three centuries. Therefore, visitors to the museum can discover a variety of exhibits featuring agricultural artifacts such as wagons, tractors, steam engines and farm tools. The industrial exhibits include a 72-ton A-Frame ammonia compressor, once used to manufacture large blocks of ice, a three-story gristmill, a hydraulic ramp pump, 1930s telephone exchange, and more. Exhibits on pottery, casket manufacturing, dental supplies, piano and organ manufacturing as well as York's industrial contribution to World War II, known as the "York Plan,” are also featured.
Backstory and Context
Although technically two separate museums, visitors to the Agricultural & Industrial Museum explore the history of labor in Pennsylvania and how the development of certain technologies aided York County in substantial economic growth.
The agricultural part of the museum is located in the Old Eastern Market building. First built in 1889 and operating as a farmer’s market until 1947, the current 13,000-square-foot museum features about 20 exhibits. Self-guided and guided tours are available, and the museum also includes a gift shop, a play area, and a garden.
Exhibits in the agricultural part of the museum range from the economic culture surrounding farming to essential equipment used in the field. For example, within the “Banking Artifacts” exhibit, visitors can discover an authentic four-ton safe, while the “Plowing and Cultivating” exhibit displays several generations of horse-drawn plows and cultivators. Other exhibits here include the “Cigar Manufacturer,” “York Automobiles,” and “Machine Shop.”
The industrial part of the museum is located in a multi-building complex that focuses on industrial artifacts dating from the 19th century and onwards. One of the more popular sites at this museum is undoubtedly the old fashioned ice cream parlor, which transports visitors back to yesteryear with an up-and-close look at the most social spot in the town.
Also, the full-size 1892 model of Phineas Davis' coal-fired 1831 locomotive prevails as an exciting look into the railroad culture of Pennsylvania. Other exhibits in the industrial part of the museum include the reconstructed (and operating) “Gristmill,” “Auto Body Manufacturing,” and a hands-on exhibit showcasing the telephone’s history and how it works.1