This object is a retort made by Josef Kavlier. Retorts are among the oldest forms of glassware used in chemistry. With their bulbs and long necks, they are suitable for distillation—the separation of one material from another through heating. The bulb containing the sample is heated and the resulting gases travel along the neck to a second collecting vessel.
The chemical glassware of Josef Kavalier (1831–1903) of Bohemia was considered to be among the best available for the lab in the mid- to late- 19th century. The Kavalier brand started with Josef’s father Frantisek Kavalir (1796–1853) (the family later added an “e” to make the name easier for international customers). In the 1830s Frantisek developed a very hard, resistant glass which he used to produce chemical glassware at his glassworks in Sázava. He worked with renowned Swedish chemist Jons Jacob Berzelius (1779–1848) to design new forms and shapes to replace earlier flasks and alembics, and became one of the first exporters of specially made chemical glass. Frantisek’s sons, including Josef, continued the business after his death.
This object is part of a collection donated by Barbara Keppel, wife of C. Robert Keppel. Robert Keppel taught at the University of Nebraska-Omaha after receiving his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from M.I.T. The glassware in the Keppel collection covers the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Langhamer, Antonín. The Legend of Bohemian Glass: A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe. Tigris, 2003.
National Museum of American History Accession File #1985.0311
“University of Nebraska Omaha.” 2015. Accessed May 4. http://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/chemistry/student-opportunities/scholarships.php.
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