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Mahogany box holding six glass vials containing the sulfides of lime, strontium, barium, etc. When exposed to light, the gases glowed in the dark. A paper tag box identifies this as a “PHOSPHOROSCOPE” and notes, in French, that it contains examples of the most beautiful specimens. A manuscript inscription reads “Draper.”
According to the “Phosphorescence” article in The American Cyclopaedia, vol. 13 (1879), “Phosphorescent tubes have been made in Germany and France for several years, and their preparation was kept a secret; but such tubes are now produced by several experimenters showing all the colors of the rainbow, and preparations may be made to imitate flowers and bright-colored insects, as well as landscapes.”
This example was found in the Draper family house in Hasting-on-Hudson, New York. It probably belonged to John William Draper (1811-1882), an English immigrant who did import work in several areas of science and medicine.
Ref: “A Trap to Catch Sunbeams,” Pharmaceutical Journal 9 (1867-68): 444.
“The Phosphoroscope,” Scientific American 21 (Oct. 9, 1869): 232.
George F. Barker, “Memoir of John William Draper,” Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (1886), pp. 349-388.
Currently not on view
Object Name
phosphorescent materials
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey
Physical Description
mahogany (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 19 mm x 55 mm x 133 mm; 3/4 in x 2 3/16 in x 5 1/4 in
overall in box: 13/16 in x 5 1/4 in x 2 3/16 in; 2.06375 cm x 13.335 cm x 5.55625 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
John William Christopher Draper and James Christopher Draper
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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