Box of Glass

Box of Glass

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Description (Brief)
Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) used this assortment of glass objects in his Northumberland, Pennsylvania 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.
National Museum of American History Accession File #13305
Object Name
used by
Priestley, Joseph
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
box: 11 1/2 in x 10 in x 2 1/2 in; 29.21 cm x 25.4 cm x 6.35 cm
glass pieces: 27 in; 68.58 cm
cylindrical tube: 27 in; 68.58 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Frances D. Priestley
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Science & Mathematics
Joseph Priestley
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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One further note: There are two Joseph Priestley bookplates. One is referred to as "Falling Waters" and the other is armorial. I have recently learned that the common understanding that "Falling Waters" was the bookplate of the famous Joseph Priestley is most likely in error. It now appears that the armorial bookplate was his and the "Falling Waters" was the bookplate of his son Joseph Priestley, Jr.
I once wrote an article about Priestley and the Priestley Riots, I also referred to the burning of his house and laboratory, but I was roundly criticized for making that comment. In fact, the house and laboratory were sacked, and the contents were spread near and far. Occasionally antiquarian books appear with the Priestley "Falling Waters" bookplate affixed which he used at the time. I suspect much of the material might still exist somewhere. Of course, through time it has gone into disrepair and in some cases destroyed.

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