Grave of John Matthews: The Soda Fountain King
Final resting place of the immigrant who brought artificial seltzer water to America.
You may have noticed that America is in the throes of a serious seltzer craze right now—indeed, perhaps you are one of the hipsters crushing La Croix at your desk or documenting your Unicorn Kisses flavor Polar on Instagram. In the most recent episode of Gastropod, we explore the history of seltzer, unravel the peculiar way we taste carbonation, and bust the beverage’s many health myths.
What many people do not know, however, is the story of the man who brought artificial seltzer water to America: John Matthews, the “soda fountain king.” An immigrant from the UK, Matthews created an apparatus that pharmacists could sit on their counters to dispense carbonated water—and, in the process, set off the original American seltzer craze. He is laid to rest at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where you can visit his elaborate tomb to pay respects to his bubbly addition to American culture—perhaps with a seltzer in hand.
In this Gastropod episode, Green-Wood historian Jeff Richman tells Matthews’ life story—and explains the curious irony behind his monument’s weather-beaten marble.
Know Before You Go
You can visit John Matthews’ grave at Green-Wood Cemetery for free during the cemetery’s open hours. There are also regular guided tours, with details on the website.
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