History and Story Behind Inventions: Soda Fountain

About the story behind the invention of the soda fountain, history and biography of inventor John Matthews.

INVENTION: Soda Fountain

INVENTOR: John Matthews, U.S.

YEAR: 1832

HOW INVENTED: According to historian Stewart Holbrook, the 1st fountain "by which soda could be automatically made and dispensed" was invented by Matthews, a Massachusetts brass founder. On the other hand, Joseph N. Kane, the famous 1st facts man, credits the 1st soda fountain patent, registered in 1833, to "Jacob Ebert, of Cadiz, O., and George Dulty of Wheeling, W. Va." Kane credits the 1st ornamented fountain--white Italian marble, adorned with spread eagles--to "Gustavus D. Dows, of Lowell, Mass., in 1858." Four years later, Dows invented "the double-stream draft arm and cock, which allowed the use of a large or small stream" of soda water.

The ice-cream soda was created by Robert M. Green, a Philadelphia soda fountain maker, who mixed ice cream with soda water and demonstrated the concoction at the Semi-Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia, in 1874. Clergymen inveighed against the frivolous act of "sucking soda" on the Sabbath, and many communities prohibited sales on Sundays. Wily druggists got around the ban by serving ice cream without soda, but with sweet syrup, on Sundays--ergo, the sundae. Another version has it: In Ithaca, N.Y., during 1897, clients of the Ithaca Hotel who quaffed their beer daily at a bar across the street found the bar closed on Sundays. They learned a new refreshment, syrup on ice cream, was being sold on Sundays at the corner drugstore. They named it--the sundae.

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