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.


Priestley Descendants Gather at Joseph Priestley House

Posted August 8th, 2017

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House held a gathering of the  descendants of Joseph and Mary Priestley on Saturday and Sunday, August 5 and 6, 2017 at  Priestley’s American home to learn about the life and achievements of their famous ancestors.

The first gathering of descendants at Priestley House occurred in August 1874 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of oxygen.  Another gathering in September 1926 celebrated the opening of the Priestley Museum. The third in August 1994 celebrated the 200th anniversary of the emigration of Joseph and Mary Priestley from England to America.

During the weekend descendants had a top to bottom tour of the house to visit the rooms of the house, the basement and the attic and rooftop widows walk or parapet.  After a picnic lunch the group were lead on a walking tour of Priestley homes in Northumberland and visited the Riverview cemetery where many of their descendants are buried.  The day concluded with an evening meal at which each descendant introduced themselves and described how they are related to Joseph Priestley.





Posted April 27th, 2017


Our 2017 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 a $500 prepaid credit card for an overnight stay in Philadelphia, plus four complimentary tickets for both the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute.

To be eligible for the grand prize drawing participants had to have their passports stamped at a minimum of five heritage sites prior to August 31, 2017. Heritage sites included: Dale/Engle/Walker House, Elias Church/Elias Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Augusta and Hunter House Museum, The Hotel Edison, Joseph Priestley House Museum, Mifflinburg Buggy Museum, Milton Historic Downtown Walking Tour, Muncy Historical Society, Packwood House Museum, Slifer House Museum, and World of Little League Museum and Official Store. Post Office artwork and sculptures from the New Deal from 1933 through 1943 were also part of the passport program at the following post offices: Lewisburg, Mifflinburg, Muncy, Milton, Selinsgrove, and Northumberland.
The Susquehanna River Heritage Alliance is sponsored by the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau and is made up of historical societies and heritage sites in Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, and Union counties.


Your Passport can be downloaded   here


Discoveries of Joseph Priestley: the videos

Posted August 11th, 2016

Discoveries of Joseph Priestley:  videos on Carbon Monoxide,  Ammonia and Nitrous Oxide

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 and a discussion of the hazards and uses of the gas.

Viewers of the videos are asked to complete a brief survey

Carbon monoxide


Nitrous oxide



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.

Partial funding of the Nitrous Oxide video was from Department of Anesthesiology, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

These videos  are used in the museum to explain Priestley’s achievements to visitors.