Matrass Flask

This flask, made of green glass, is properly called a "matrass." Part of a distillation apparatus, a matrass is a vessel with a round bottom and a long slender neck. It is used with a head and a receiver, the two other pieces needed for the distillation process. Joseph Priestley used this 18th-century matrass in his Northumberland, Pa., laboratory.
Priestley, the noted chemist whose accomplishments include the discovery of oxygen, was born in England. He lived and worked in Birmingham for many years, but his views as a Dissenter and an advocate of the French Revolution incited an angry mob into burning down his house and laboratory. In 1794 he fled to America, eventually settling in Northumberland, near Philadelphia. His great-great-granddaughter, Frances Priestley, donated his surviving laboratory ware to the Smithsonian in 1883.
Object Name
Date made
18th century
used by
Priestley, Joseph
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
overall: 11 1/2 in x 4 in; 29.21 cm x 10.16 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Science & Scientific Instruments
Joseph Priestley
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Joseph Priestley
American Stories
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Frances D. Priestley

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