Chemistry for Victorian youths

Our last few blog entries, beginning with The Boys Journal and Boy Soldiering, have featured pages from a periodical aimed at boys. The issue we have at Market Lavington Museum dates from May 1863. We wonder whether a magazine for the youngsters of today would be recommending their undertaking of chemistry experiments. The Boys Journal explained how to make nitric acid.

Nowadays, we would probably suggest not trying this at home, but doing it in a school chemistry laboratory, under the supervision of a science teacher.

However, an advertisement in the same journal is for chemistry sets, said to be safe for youths to use.

You could buy a chemical amusement chest, said to be free from danger, or you could purchase the youths’ chemical cabinet, containing useful apparatus for over sixty chemical tests. Not containing strong acids, these were deemed to be ‘perfectly safe in the hands of youth’.

These would not have been cheap to buy over 150 years ago, although there were various options, with the version in a stout mahogany case costing half a guinea, nearly twice as much as the one in a fancy paper case. The middle of the road choice was housed in a cedar case.

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