The U.S. Children's Museum on the 19th Century is devoted to North American art and artifacts made and used during the 1800s, as well as items made in the early 1900s by those born in the 19th century. Most items were initially created in the period of 1800 to 1930. The museum includes primarily Native American material, with a sampling of objects relevant to East Coast and Pacific whaling and to Western settlement (cavalry, cowboy and trade items). It also includes a substantial antique cane collection.

The collection includes approximately 10,000 objects of art and related documents and provenance, with some priority given to articles made for or used by Native American children. Those articles include perhaps the largest collection of Native American cradles, doll cradles and dolls. The geographical reach extends into the South Pacific to Hawaii and somewhat beyond. A number of the items in the collection have documented association with known historical figures, both white and Native American.

The museum is intended to honor the extraordinary artistry of the Native American, particularly the Native American woman. That artistry is perhaps unparalleled among the historical peoples of the world, particularly given living conditions and available materials. The beauty of quill and beadwork, the difficulty of "brain tanning" hide, the carving skills without the use of machine tools, hand weaving (not only with cotton or wool for blankets, but embroidery with silk and moosehair and bird quill), pottery and basketry — all involving intricate difficult techniques not easily matched. The interplay between Native American artistry and Western articles often produces interesting creations — the NE interpretation of the Swiss Pipe, the Huron creation of embroidered birchbark cigar cases — including humorous depictions of early Europeans, the NWC argillite carvings of a whaling captain, the Iroquois interpretation of the "Glengarry hat." The interplay allows one group of artists to interpret an article and its style through their own materials and their highly developed artistic sensibilities. The results are often fascinating and produce a whole greater than the sum of the two traditions of which they are a part.

The collection also includes representative "revival" pieces made by a group of highly skilled modern artists such as Bob Brewer, Bill and Kathy Brewer in the Midwest, Norbert Kohlruss in Germany and some other European and American artists who still produce a limited number of articles based on the work, material and methodology of their Native American predecessors. This group of some 30 or so artisans comes close to replicating the skill of the 19th century artisans they so honor, and some of them are properly regarded as among the most skilled contemporary masters of art.

Items photographed and displayed include some that have been repaired or restored. "Repair" applies if the correction simply involves the patching of a tear or other safeguard to prevent deterioration and does not change the basic appearance of the object. "Restoration" may be undertaken for some items where a substantial portion of an item remains intact and where it is often recycled into other related articles. Beadwork in particular was recycled commonly, into doll cradles, bags, armbands or for other uses amenable to their preservation where a needed second match did not exist or had been ruined, or its size or other factors required that it be used elsewhere. In particular, we have a number of single moccasins that were altered into doll cradles by native americans. We have followed that pattern by simply taking single moccasins and so using them — a common practice of most tribal mothers. The moccasins so displayed are original and of the same period as the dolls they include. While usually not made for that cradle, they allow the doll to have a home from the same period and tribal group.

Portions of the museum collection have been exhibited at Founder's Hall at the University of San Diego, and at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico ("I Can See By Your Outfit" in 2005–06). Other objects have been used in classroom presentations, particularly in 3rd and 8th grade classes in California — where Native American studies is often a part of the curriculum.

The Museum is associated with the 501©3 — The U.S. Children's Center on Historical Education and Advocacy. The last is devoted to two goals: (a) teaching information relevant to the museum's collection — so that the artistry is appreciated by children as a part of their education, and (b) engaging in more general child advocacy.

The collection below is organized along tribal groupings, divided into tribes, with articles so arranged. It is also organized to display items across tribes by item purpose. The "View Details" column allows close-up photos of the item, and a more detailed description of its features and provenance. Occasionally, items will be deaccessioned by sale, especially where several items of the same type, tribe and age are in the collection.