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Co-founder of Wharton Esherick Museum dies

Mansfield “Bob” Bascom and Wharton Esherick’s home and studio in Malvern, Pa. 

Mansfield “Bob” Bascom and Wharton Esherick’s home and studio in Malvern, Pa. 

Born in 1923, Mansfield “Bob” Bascom, co-founder of the Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern, Pa., passed away Oct. 26 at the age of 96. Bascom was dedicated to the preservation of Esherick’s legacy for nearly 50 years.

Located just outside of Valley Forge Park in Malvern, Pa., the museum is the handcrafted home and studio of Wharton Esherick (1887-1970), an internationally recognized woodworker and a leader in the studio furniture movement. Esherick worked primarily with wood and extended his unique forms to furniture, furnishings, interiors, buildings, and more.

Bascom was Esherick’s son-in-law, as he was married to Ruth Esherick Bascom. Together with Ruth, along with Esherick’s companion Miriam Phillips, Bascom helped found his father-in-law’s home and studio as a museum in 1972. He served as director until 1990 and curator until 2007.

An architect and structural engineer, Bascom had a deep appreciation for Esherick’s work and wanted to share it with the world.


“Though I overlapped only five of the almost fifty years that Bob dedicated to preserving his father-in-law’s legacy, that time was invaluable,” according to a statement by Julie Siglin, the museum’s executive director.

“I learned so much from him about Wharton, about caring for the buildings and artwork he created, and about the kinship they shared. Bob was fiercely protective of the museum and never stopped thinking about its future. He didn’t bother with plans for the coming year, he planned for the next 100 years. Even our last conversation in his final days started with his thoughts on a museum facilities project. It is a privilege every day to lead the museum he founded, and I will always be grateful to him for that, and for his friendship.”

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This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue.

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