Joseph Priestley House

Northumberland, Pennsylvania

When Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is remembered today, it’s usually for his 1774 discovery, in England, of oxygen. Few know he was a noted theologian, political progressive, and prolific author whose scientific contributions include the development of the modern timeline, the carbonation process, the identification of carbon monoxide and other gases, early experiments in electricity and an early understanding of the inter-relationship of plants and animals mediated by gases: oxygen and carbon dioxide and the role of sunlight in photosynthesis.

He counted Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Watt among his friends. Yet Priestley was also a controversial figure whose views were so odious to some of his countrymen that his house, Fair Hill in Birmingham, was burned in a riot in 1791, and he and his family fled to London and then left England in 1794. Priestley spent the last ten years of his life in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he continued his work in science, religion, and education. But even in this democratic republic his liberal ideas were frequently received with intolerance, and the peace that he so ardently desired was often elusive.

Joseph Priestley House and laboratory is an historic site that preserves and interprets the contributions and significance to American history of Joseph Priestley.  As a National Historic Landmark and National Historic Chemical Landmark, the site features Priestley’s manor house with its laboratory.  In the nearby Pond Building can be found the Joseph Priestley Timeline, a series of panels that present accomplishments during different periods of his life.



Posted May 7th, 2016


Our 2016 Time Traveler’s Passport Program offers twelve heritage sites in the River Valley where you are guaranteed to learn something about our region’s history that we bet you didn’t know!

Visit at least five of the sites and you’ll be entered to win an overnight stay in Gettysburg and complimentary tours of the Civil War Museum and breath-taking Cyclorama.

Passports are available at participating sites and information can be found at:

Participating Heritage Sites
Dale/Engle/Walker “1793″ House
The Hotel Edison
Elias Church/Elias Center for the Performing Arts
Fort Augusta and Hunter House Museum
Joseph Priestley House Museum
Mifflinburg Buggy Museum
Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour
Muncy Historical Society
Packwood House Museum
Slifer House Museum
World of Little League® Museum and Official Store

Post Office Artwork & Sculpture from the New Deal [1933-1943]*
   Lewisburg Post Office
   Mifflinburg Post Office
   Milton Post Office
   Muncy Post Office
   Northumberland Post Office
   Selinsgrove Post Office

*Passports not available for pick-up at post offices.

Summer History Camp Planned for Priestley House

Posted May 4th, 2016

Summer History Camp Planned for Priestley House

First through sixth graders may now register for Summer History Camp at the Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland.  The Joseph Priestley House will hold its camp from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, July 27, 28, and 29.  The theme is “A Child’s Life in Northumberland in the 1790′s.”  Jo Ann Long and volunteers have planned lots of interesting activities that will allow campers to become familiar with the Priestleys and how children were educated  in early America.  Crafts, games, stories, snack time, and visits with special guest presenters are part of each day’s activities.  The fee is $30.00 per child.


Camp Leader Lindy Witmer talks about the history of Priestley House


All campers must register in advance.
Enrollment is limited to 20 campers and the registration deadline is Monday, July 25.  For more information, please call 570-473-9474.

To register online use the form below.





The fee is $30.00 per child.

Enrollment is limited to 20 students at each camp and we will accept registrations on a first come‐first served basis. Please register early to avoid being disappointed. Camp is open to children in 1st through 6th grades.
* indicates required field


Discoveries of Joseph Priestley: the videos

Posted June 16th, 2014

Discoveries of Joseph Priestley:  videos on Carbon Monoxide and Ammonia

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House have released videos of Priestley’s discoveries.  The videos include:  a review of his discovery  a demonstration of the discovery process in a modern laboratory   a discussion of the hazards and uses of the gas.

Viewers of the videos are asked to complete a brief survey

Carbon monoxide discovery here

Ammonia discovery  here.

Partial funding for the carbon monoxide discovery video was provided by the Susquehanna Valley Local Section through an American Chemical Society Local Section Innovative Program Grant (January 2013 round).   Partial funding for the Ammonia discovery video was from a Merck Cherokee Neighbor of Choice grant. These videos  are used in the museum to explain Priestley’s achievements to visitors.