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 carbonation process, the identification of carbon monoxide, and early experiments in electricity. 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, and he and his family left England. 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 is an historic site that preserves and interprets the contributions and significance to American history of Joseph Priestley, noted English theologian, educator, natural philosopher and political theorist.
As a National Historic Landmark and National Historic Chemical Landmark, the site features Priestley’s manor house with its laboratory wing situated along the North Branch of the Susquehanna River at Northumberland, Pennsylvania – the small town Priestley called home from 1794-1804.
Posted May 3rd, 2013
First through sixth graders may now register for Summer History Camps to be held at the Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland and the Hunter House in Sunbury. This year marks the 20th year that the two historic sites have hosted summer camps for elementary students.
The Joseph Priestley House will hold its camp from 9 a.m. to noon July 24, 25, and 26. The theme is “Everyday Life with the Priestleys.” Lindy Fasold and Dixie Gavason, teachers in the Shikellamy School District, have planned lots of interesting activities that will allow campers to become familiar with the daily activities of the Priestleys at their Northumberland home. Crafts, games, stories, snack time, and visits with special guest presenters are part of each day’s activities. The fee is $30 per child.
The Northumberland County Historical Society will hold camp on Aug. 5, 6, and 7 at the Hunter House at the site of Fort Augusta. Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and lunch is provided for all campers. The fee is $45 per child.
All campers must register in advance. Enrollment is limited to 20 campers at each location and the registration deadline is July 22. Campers are not required to attend both camps. To register, call 286-4083 to request a form or visit www.northumberlandcountyhistoricalsociety.org
History Campers learn about the use of herbs at Priestley House
Posted May 2nd, 2013
Marley Kinsey of Middleton, PA recently won the Junior Fiction title in the Hershey Story’s History Contest with her essay on Priestley’s Legacy. The story tells of meeting Joseph Priestley in his home in Northumberland, PA and visiting places in town. To read the article from the Daily Item newspaper and the prize winning story go to http://dailyitem.com/shikregion/x730864046/Priestleys-Legacy-essay-wins-Hershey-History-Contest
Posted March 26th, 2013
The 2013 season has begun at Joseph Priestley House with three new exhibits: Priestley’s microscope returns to Priestley House, reproductions of Priestley’s laboratory glassware are shown again in new display cases and a new exhibit of artifacts from archeological excavations at Priestley House.
This circa 1780-1790 microscope rests on an iron base with a single ivory and glass specimen drawer and brass adjustable lens attachments. The microscope was made by brothers William and Samuel Jones, among the most successful scientific equipment makers in London during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The display includes the microscope, its wooden storage box and many microscope slides. The objects are in a new display case in the drawing room.
Reproduction glassware shown in new display cases.
Reproduction chemical glassware, much of it packed away for decades while Joseph Priestley House Museum’s laboratory exhibit was re-envisioned is back on display in Priestley’s American lab.
Many pieces of the original glassware Priestley commissioned for his laboratory work were reproduced in a project sponsred by the American Chemical Society to create authentic replicas that could be displayed in Priestley’s American laboratory. Many of the reproduction pieces were hand made by industry craftsmen who added imperfections to resemble those in the originals. The reproductions were presented to the PA Historical and Museum Commission in 1976 in ceremonies at Priestley House and Bucknell University.
Replicas of Priestley’s laboratory glassware
Representative artifacts discovered during the six archeological investigations at Priestley House are now displayed and described in a new exhibit in the shadow box in the dining room at Priestley House. Emily Dietrich researched and wrote display cards for the exhibit and Scott Onsager arranged the display.
Exhibit of archeological artifacts