Usage conditions apply
In chemical parlance, a beaker is a cylindrical vessel, usually of glass, with a flat bottom. This example has a small beak (or pouring spout) and appears to date from the mid-nineteenth century.
Beakers were known by the fourteenth century and were used primarily for holding drinks. Some examples might have used for pharmaceutical or alchemical purposes at an early date, but the form clearly became scientific in the nineteenth century. John Joseph Griffin, a chemical supply dealer in Glasgow, advertised beakers from Bohemia in the late 1830s, explaining that German chemists use them “for holding a cold solution” and “for heating it in.” These beakers were made of thin and hard white glass that can withstand “considerable and very sudden changes of heat without cracking.” A spout on the rim meant that liquids could be poured without loss. Griffin went on to say that “When English glass makers can be persuaded to make vessels of this kind, or rather when the British government pleases to permit the manufacture of chemical vessels in Britain, they may become cheaper. The freight of these vessels from Bohemia, and the enormously high English custom house duties constitute a chief part of the price above-named.”
Ref: John Joseph Griffin, Chemical Recreations (Glasgow, 1838).
Ad for “Griffin’s Cheap Chemical Apparatus” in John W. Webster, A Manual of Chemistry (Boston, 1839).
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
19th century
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey
overall: 3 in x 4 1/2 in; 7.62 cm x 11.43 cm
overall: 4 7/16 in x 3 5/16 in x 2 7/8 in; 11.27125 cm x 8.41375 cm x 7.3025 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Derek J. Price
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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