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 might date from the mid-nineteenth century.
Beakers were known by the fourteenth century and, while used primarily for drinking purposes, might sometimes have put to pharmaceutical or alchemical uses. John Joseph Griffin, a chemical supply dealer in Glasgow, began selling 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.” And because there was a pouring spout at the top, liquids could be poured without loss. Some advertisements noted that beaker glasses had been recommended by the Swedish chemist, Jőns Jacob Berzelius. And some argued 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
Beaker, Chemical
Date made
19th century
1800-1900 19th centur
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey
overall: 2 3/4 in x 5 in; 6.985 cm x 12.7 cm
overall: 4 7/8 in x 3 3/16 in x 2 7/8 in; 12.3825 cm x 8.09625 cm x 7.3025 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Derek J. Price
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object