Stone carving as an art form peaked during the last half of the 19th century. The perils of stone carving as an occupation caused the death of many carvers, often from a form of tuberculosis caused by inhaling marble dust. Not only the carvers, but also many members of their families were affected by the toxic effects on the respiratory system of inhaled marble dust. Even today, workers and residents living in areas adjacent to stone quarries are prone to a disease called silicosis, whereby inhaled marble dust damages the cells of the respiratory system. Symptoms include a chronic cough and shortness of breath. There is no treatment that can reverse the damage to the lungs.
We have seen the work of the following stone carvers in historic cemeteries in Arkansas.
James L Tunnah
James Tunnah was born in Dumfernline, Fifeshire, Scotland, on March 21, 1817, immigrating to the United States in his early 30s. According to Goodspeed's History of Pulaski County, Arkansas (1889), in the “spring of 1849, with Joseph Clark, his companion from Scotland, Tunnah arrived at Little Rock. Both of them were marble and stone cutters, and were the first to establish the marble business in Little Rock, which they carried on under the firm name of Joseph Clark & Co.,” until the death of Clark in 1852. Tunnah then assumed full control of the business (and married Clark’s widow). Tunnah's son Renton (born in 1864), whom James was training in his craft, became his partner in the business in 1882, prior to James Tunnah's death.
Rather than bas relief carving for which many carvers were known, James Tunnah's style was notable for deeply incised carving on his stones. He worked primarily in marble.
James Tunnah died on 9 Oct 1882, and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery. Renton Tunnah's son, Renton Tunnah, Jr., is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock, and carried on the trade of his father and grandfather in the company called Little Rock Marble Works.
William L Funston
Although not a lot is known about how he learned his trade, William L. Funston, another Little Rock stone carver, was in Little Rock with his own stone cutting business by 1881. The company was listed in the 1881 Little Rock City Directory as Little Rock Marble Works on Main Street. Soon after setting up shop in Little Rock, he opened a larger marble yard in conjunction with the Main Street yard at 400 Markham Street and by 1895, had a mill at 1100 to 1124 East 2nd Street.
Funston worked in both marble and limestone. His work is almost always bas-relief with few examples of sunken relief or high relief. In the early 1900s, Funston's stylized Gothic letterings and slightly incised vine decorations were his most common iconography. Sometime around or after 1902, Funston lost control of the company to his son William P. Funston - apparently as the result of an acrimonious divorce. In the 1902 Little Rock City Directory, he was shown as the manager of the W L Funston Co. at 613-615 Main Street, and additionally had a steam mill at East 9th and C Streets. The 1907 City Directory for McAlester, OK shows him as a marble cutter for Bennett, Urmston and Co. By 1910, Funston was living in Fort Smith. He then relocated to Ada, OK, where he continued stone carving, although he never owned his own company again.
William L Funston variously signed his work "W.L. Funston, Little Rock," "Funston, Little Rock," or "W L Funston, L Rock." He died in 1931 in Ada, OK, and is buried in Rosedale Cemetery. Ironically, his grave has no monument.
R. L. Rosebrough Sons
Found in several historic Arkansas cemeteries, the stonework of Richard L Rosebrough and his sons was commissioned by Arkansans with the money to afford this notable stone carver from St. Louis. The company still exists today, and is known as the Rosebrough Monument Company. Their stones are signed either "Rosebrough Sons, St. Louis" or simply "Rosebrough, St. Louis."
The Industries of St. Louis (1887) includes a drawing of the monolithic building that housed the marble and stone works in St. Louis, encompassing six city blocks. Originally established in 1858 by Richard L Rosebrough, ownership of the company passed to his son, J W Rosebrough, after Richard Rosebrough’s death in 1866.
Monahan & Steinert - Ed Monahan, R C Steinert
Ed Monahan was listed in the 1881 Little Rock City Directory as a stone cutter. In 1886, he was listed in the Little Rock City Directory as a marble cutter for W L Funston. City directories show that Monahan’s employment with Funston as a marble cutter continued at least through 1895. In the 1897 Little Rock City Directory, Monahan was listed as one of the partners in the stone cutting company of Monahan & Viquesney. Monahan & Viquesney - Ed Monahan and J A Viquesney - marble and granite workers, were in business at 401 West Markham from 1899 through 1902.
By 1903, Richard Carl Steinert appeared as a stone cutter in Little Rock, and J A Viquesney was no longer found in the Little Rock City Directory. Ed Monahan and R C Steinert had a stone cutting business at 412 West Markham in the listings of the 1903 Little Rock City Directory.
Apparently having problems with knock-offs of their work, Monahan and Steinert published this almost full page advertisement in the 1913 Souvenir Yearbook and Parish Guide of the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist ... Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The largest and most complete stock in the state to select from
Monahan & Steinert
AND ALL KINDS OF TOMBSTONES
Phones-Old, 2565-NEW, 784 LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
DEMAND THE GENUINE
THE Fine Art Production of the Daprato Statuary Company-
are being imitated— and their reputation is being cheapened
by substitution. Orders are being solicited for our Statuary and
inferior works furnished in their stead. Even the catalogue of this
house, in its general style and arrangement, has been copied, and
its contents plagiarized. We give this information so that our pa-
trons may guard themselves against deception.
LOOK FOR OUR NAME ON EVERY STATUE YOU BUY IT IS
YOUR PROTECTION. IT IS PROOF OF THE GENUINE.
Our full name on any statue is a guarantee of quality