The museum, which opened in 1907, is located in a reconstructed 18th-century building that was a frequent gathering spot of American Revolutionary leaders. It houses important early-American prints, paintings, decorative arts and artifacts dating from the Colonial period to the mid-19th century. A regular program of exhibitions examine aspects of American history and culture, such as drinking traditions and temperance movements, Jewish life in early New York, medicine in early America and the black church in early America. Related lectures and walking tours are also offered.
The museum houses two fully reconstructed period rooms: the Long Room, site of George Washington's emotional farewell to his officers at the end of the American Revolution, and the Clinton Dining Room, where Dewitt Clinton, the first American-born governor of New York and a former city mayor, commemorated the British evacuation. The building was constructed in 1719 by Etienne DeLancey as a residence. Samuel Fraunces turned it into the legendary tavern shortly after purchasing it in 1762.
A variety of changing programs and walking tours are offered by the museum. All focus on early American history or the habits of early Americans, from their food and clothing to the ways immigrant cultures interacted during the country's early years.
Students learn about the Revolution and its effect on New York City residents through tours of the Long Room, viewing the exhibit Heroes, and hands-on examination and discussion of artifacts. Students then draw and write to express their opinions on what they have learned.