I am always on the lookout to buy items pertaining to John Matthews, “The Soda Fountain King,” and other leading lights at Green-Wood. Matthews’s story is a fascinating one. And, equally fascinating is the story of his spectacular monument at Green-Wood.

Over the years, The Green-Wood Historic Fund has been able to purchase metal souvenir tokens issued by the Matthews Company, catalogues of its large array of soda fountains for sale, stoneware jugs in which were shipped and stored syrups for flavoring carbonated drinks, a pressure gauge, and photographs of the Matthews Monument at Green-Wood.

This promotional coin was issued by the John Matthews Company. It shows the face of the company's founder and his life dates. The Green-Wood Historic Fund Collections.

This promotional coin was issued by the John Matthews Company. It shows the company’s founder and his life dates. The Green-Wood Historic Fund Collections.

I recently came across 12 wonderful stereoview photographs of the Matthews Monument that were for sale. The photographs were taken just a few years after the monuments unveiling–and I was able to purchase them for The Green-Wood Historic Fund Collections. Let’s take a look! But first, let me tell you about John Matthews and his Green-Wood monument.

Below is a cabinet card photograph of the Matthews Monument at Green-Wood, in section 66, lot 1345, that we have had in our collections for several years. It offers an overview of the monument in sharp detail:

This photograph was taken soon after the Matthews Monument was unveiled at Green-Wood--about 1875-1880.

This photograph was taken about 1880–soon after the Matthews Monument was unveiled at Green-Wood.

John Matthews (1808-1870) trained in his native England to create soda fountains for adding carbonation to drinks. He then took his talents to New York City, where he established a tremendously-successful business which popularized flavored carbonated drinks and pioneered the elaborate decorated soda fountain. When Matthews retired in 1865, his New York City manufacturing plant on First Avenue, between 26th and 27th Streets, was huge.

Matthews–or perhaps his heirs–hired sculptor Karl Müller (1820-1887) to create a monument for the ages at  Green-Wood Cemetery for him and his family. A native of Coblenz, Germany, Müller trained there as a goldsmith, then studied at the Royal Academy in Paris, where he won a gold prize for one of his statuettes. Around 1850, Müller immigrated to New York City and built a thriving business with his brother making statuettes in plaster, terra cotta, and bronze, and casting white metal clock cases.

By 1868, Müller was creating sculpture in terra cotta. The whimsical and extravagant Matthews Monument, executed in terra cotta, marble, and granite, for the huge sum back then of $30,000 ($535,000 in today’s money) was voted the “Mortuary Monument of the Year” soon after it was unveiled. It features a menagerie of animals: fox and lion and bears and wolf and turtles and lizards and ram, etc., as well as portraits of Matthews family members.

A lion adorns one of the eaves.

A lion adorns one of the eaves.

A lizard and a turtle, heading in opposite directions.

A lizard and a turtle, heading in opposite directions.

A wolf, with acorns, symbols of long life, to either side of it.

A wolf, framed by acorns, symbols of long life–an oak tree, once it establishes its deep taproot, will not be moved, will not topple–but rather will grow old in place.

A ram. Note the small face at upper left, with mouth wide open.

A ram, frogs, and a turtle. Note the mysterious small face at upper left, with mouth agape.

Foxes and grapes.

The fabled tale of foxes and grapes–the source of the expression “sour grapes”–for that which is found to be unattainable and therefore rationalized as unattractive.

In 1870, Müller went to work at the Union Porcelain Works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and, in addition to other projects, he was soon working on century vases for the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

matthews.muller.vase

One of the centennial vases that Karl Muller designed for the Union Porcelain Works. It dates circa 1876 and exhibits many of the same features that Muller had used in the Matthews Monument just a few years earlier: elaborate animal heads (here bison; at Green-Wood gargoyles, a ram, a wolf, etc.); portraits of heroic figures (here General and President George Washington; at Green-Wood the effigy of John Matthews; and low relief historic scenes (here Native Americans; at Green-Wood scenes of Matthew’s life on the surface above his effigy). Friends of the American Wing, 1987, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Müller clearly had an ongoing relationship with the Matthews Company. Here’s a coin he created for it, dated 1876, signed by him as the artist:

matthews.coin2

Note Karl Muller’s signature at the neck of the figure.

Müller carved his name on the base of the central female figure—a personification of grief or Mrs. Matthews, depending on which interpretation you prefer. As I worked on this blog post, I cropped the second image in this blog post–the cabinet card photograph of the Matthews Monument–to give readers a better look at Muller’s signature on the monument–a signature that is no longer visible there because of the deterioration of the marble. And, as I did so, I made a very exciting discovery! The only information I had yet found was that the Matthews Monument was created some time in the early 1870s, soon after John Matthews’s death. But, as I cropped this image, I made a discovery:

Not only can you see sculptor Karl Muller's signature here on the first line at right--but you can also read the second line which dates the monument: "N.Y. 1873."

Not only can you see sculptor Karl Muller’s signature here, on the right side of the pedestal supporting the female figure–but you can also see the second line which dates the monument: “N.Y. 1873.”

Zooming in on the signature and date.

Zooming in on the signature and date.

Müller’s signature is there. I remembered seeing it years ago in this photograph. But, as I have just discovered, there is a second line there that reads: “N.Y. 1873.” So now we know the year in which the Matthews Monument was created!

John Matthews is depicted in marble, lying on his back atop a sarcophagus, looking up at scenes from his life: learning how to make carbonated water, bidding his farewell to his native Liverpool, England, and coming up with new soda water products. And then there is this:

One of the scenes that John Matthews's effigy gets to look at forever and ever. This looks like a sculptor, with hammer in hand, carving away. Note that a rather unattractive woman looms large over his shoulder--is this perhaps Mrs. Matthews, who may have supervised the work on the monument after her husband's death?

One of the scenes that John Matthews’s effigy gets to look at forever and ever. This looks to me like a sculptor, with hammer in one hand and chisel in the other, carving away. Note that a rather disapproving woman looms very large, looking over his shoulder–is this perhaps Mrs. Matthews, who may have supervised Muller’s work on the monument after her husband’s death?

From the time of its installation, the Matthews Monument was a great attraction at Green-Wood. Here, visitors examine it:

Stereoview of the Matthews Monument, circa 1880, with visitors. Note the wrought iron fence that surrounded the monument in its early years.

Stereoview of the Matthews Monument, circa 1880, with visitors. Note the wrought iron fence that surrounded the monument in its early years; it has been gone for years now.

The Matthew Monument has not had an easy life. Though it was an extraordinary cemetery monument when it was unveiled circa 1873, is still spectacular today, though somewhat diminished. In 1977, the family paid for repairs to and cleaning of the monument. At that time it was discovered that the large terra cotta pinnacle had loosened; it was removed. Further, it appears, based on cemetery records, that a liquid fiberglass was applied to the monument’s marble in many places; almost 40 years later that material has created a crust over the marble, hiding its surface and obscuring its detailing.

Note the material--likely the liquid fiberglass specified in cemetery records--over the lighter-colored marble. Detail of the right front capital.

Note the grainy gray material–likely the liquid fiberglass specified in cemetery records–over the white marble, on this detail of the right front capital.

On the capital at left front, most of the wash over the marble seems to have worn away; traces remain in the recesses.

On the capital at left front, most of the material added over the marble seems to have worn away, but traces remain in the recesses.

matthews.left

Note the substantial wear to the capital at front left and the minimal wear to the one behind it at right. This may be a result of weather; the front capital is exposed to the elements, while the one at back is protected. Also, the capital in the front faces west and therefore is exposed to prevailing storms coming in off New York Harbor. Further, the cleaning in 1977 may have included the use of high pressure water, and perhaps an overenthusiastic use of that now frowned-upon technique on the front capital–which is more visible to passersby and might have encouraged the user to do much too much work on it.

It is ironic that the chemical reaction that made John Matthews and his progeny very rich—the reaction of acid and marble that creates carbonation—is the same one which has caused the monument, exposed over the years to acid rain, to deteriorate. Adding to the woe, just a year a few years ago, the face of the female figure at the center of the monument deteriorated to such an extent that it slid off the head.

Effigy of John Matthews. Half stereoview, circa 1875.

Effigy of John Matthews. Half stereoview, circa 1875.

The Matthews effigy, today.

The Matthews effigy, today.

The upper half of the Matthews Effigy. Half stereoview, circa 1875.

The upper part of the Matthews Effigy. Half stereoview, circa 1875.

The Matthews Effigy, photographed from head to toe. Half stereograph, circa 1875.

The Matthews Effigy, photographed from its head. Note how fine and crisp the carving on the upright panel is. Half stereograph, circa 1875.

The marble carving at the bottom of this photograph has suffered.

The marble carving on the panel has suffered–much of its definition is gone. Note also that much of the fine work on the folds of the two pillows under the effigy’s head and the tassel at the left of the lower pillow have disappeared.

From the foot of the John Matthews effigy. Half stereograph, circa 1875.

From the foot of the John Matthews Effigy. Here the carving on the upright panel is sharp and well-defined. Half stereograph, circa 1875.

At the foot of the Matthews effigy today; note how the sharpness of the carving has deteriorated from exposure to acid rain.

At the foot of the Matthews effigy today; note that the sharpness of the carving has deteriorated from exposure to acid rain.

Stereoscopic view of a detail of the Matthews Monument, one of the capitals, circa 1875.

Stereoscopic view of a detail of the Matthews Monument, one of the capitals, circa 1875.

Still in good shape today.

The same capital, still in decent shape today. The crispness of the carving is long gone, but the basic design is still there.

Detail from half stereoscopic view, circa 1875.

Detail from half stereoscopic view, circa 1875.

The same capital, badly deteriorated, today.

The same capital as that shown in the half stereoview above, badly deteriorated, today. The face on the corner is largely gone, but the human figure at left makes this capital identifiable.

The terra cotta roof has a gargoyle at each of its four corners. When it rains, those gargoyles spray water out of their mouths. And, in winter, if conditions are right, that water may freeze, creating icicles.

This is one of the four gargoyles at the corners of the Matthew Monument. When it rains, the roof drains through the gargoyles mouths.

This is one of the four gargoyles at the corners of the Matthew Monument. When it rains, the roof drains through the gargoyles mouths.

This photograph was a dream come true--I had long hoped to capture icicles in the mouths of the Matthews gargoyles.

This photograph was a dream come true–I had long hoped to capture icicles frozen in the mouths of the Matthews gargoyles. Note that the terra cotta gargoyles have held up remarkably well through more than 140 years of exposure to the elements–certainly much better than the marble on the Matthews Monument.

Half stereoview, circa 1875.

Half stereoview, circa 1875.

Today.

Still in good shape today. It faces to the southeast, so it is sheltered from prevailing storms and dries out quickly after moisture gets into the stone.

Half stereoview, circa 1875.

Half stereoview, circa 1875.

The Matthews Monument today. Though still spectacular, it is diminished from its original glory. Note that the top piece is gone, removed about 35 years ago when it came loose.

The Matthews Monument today. Though still spectacular, it is diminished from its original glory. Note that the top terra cotta piece that was originally at its top is gone—compare this image to the second photograph (the cabinet card) in this blog post; that top, unfortunately, was removed in 1977, after it became loose, and was never replaced.

Thanks to Stacy Locke, Green-Wood’s Manager of Historical Collections, for retrieving and scanning many of these images.

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