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 September 7th, 2016

Robert Long, holding booklet, winner of 2016 passport award


The Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, Susquehanna River Valley Heritage Alliance, and PPL Electric Utilities are pleased to announce Robert Long of Northumberland, PA as the grand prize winner of the 2016 Heritage Alliance Passport Program. The grand prize includes four complimentary tickets to the Gettysburg Civil War Museum and the Cyclorama, a $500 prepaid credit card for an overnight stay in Gettysburg at the Gettysburg Hotel, and related travel expenses. “PPL Electric Utilities is pleased to support this project. Introducing young people to our wonderful historic assets is an important and commendable initiative of the Susquehanna Valley River Heritage Alliance,” said Teri MacBride of PPL Electric Utilities. PPL Electric Utilities grant award helped to underwrite the 2016 Passport Program.

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 16, 2016. 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.

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 discovery here

Ammonia discovery  here.

Nitrous oxidediscovery 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.

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.