Marion Morrrison, born in Iowa in 1907 also widely known as the ‘Duke’, named after his Airedale dog, turned ‘John Wayne’ upon the onset of his professional career after the 1930s film “The Big Trail” by director Raoul Walsh. After this production, he partook in many films, developing his acting career, until his big break as the Ringo Kid in the 1939 film “Stagecoach” directed by John Ford for which he earned a nomination for the Best Director Academy Award. He proceeded to become a legend in Hollywood cinema and Western film and took on his role as a symbol for America itself through his prevalent roles in Western and War pictures such as ‘The War Wagon’ and ‘The Hellfighters’.
After the screening of ‘Flying Leathernecks’, Wayne began to work with Bob Williams and hid wife Virginia Williams from the Skagit County to order customized hand-painted mugs for everyone who worked on John Wayne production. Soon, these became widely sought after, unique artifacts and because of their personalized nature, they were hig
hly valued by the recipients. Wayne began this practice when Bob was 88 years old and the couple was on the brink of retirement, they reinstated their home owned business after taking of the task to complete Wayne’s orders. These mugs became symbolic in their existence and people who received them began to recognize their worth such as stuntman Terry Leonard, he worked on four movies with John Wayne, and had these mugs painted for him upon the instructions of Wayne himself:
I have four of the mugs on my mantle right now. I had them specially hooked up to the bottom on my mantle so that even if there’s an earthquake, they wont fall. I want them to survive even if nothing else does. (John Wayne Enterprises. “Memorable Mugs.” John Wayne – Official Site, 18 Nov. 2015, johnwayne.com/journal/memorable-mugs.)
Furthermore, Wayne did not stop at just gifting these mugs to specific or especially significant people or roles, he proceeded to equally give them as a tribute to every single person he worked with. As he began to work on bigger projects, and he was occupied with more and more work, he entrusted Mary St. john to execute the production and distribution while he still singlehandedly developed the designs and communicated the special instructions for each mug. In his film archives, lay his hand sketched plans which were used for the designs including some films with a large cast and crew count such as ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ in 1965 after which an order of seventy personalized mugs was placed.
After this, the logo of Bob Williams – a small, black stamp which he placed at the bottom of all of his works with his name and business address – became a widely renown one specifically for these tokens extended by John Wayne to the extent that Bob began to say that he has “mugged nearly everyone in Skagit County”. (Marczynski, Evan. “A Mug Full of Fame.” GoSkagit, 10 Nov. 2014.) This business not only changed the life of Bob Williams and his wife – they estimated a total output of at least 10,000 mugs – it also left a legacy for their company and John Wayne after his demise. He left physical artifacts to show the devotion and love for his work and his people and their current worth signifies how important he was during his time.
Each mug has its own story to tell about either the relationship of John Wayne and his colleagues, about the people who received them, or about the projects he worked on with them. These mugs have become mementos that are still invaluable to this day. The Pepperdine Boone Special Collection and Archives is lucky to own two mugs from this collection, but those in circulation have auctioned off from anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000 or are not up for sale and remain as prized possessions by the families of those who owned them.
“Biography.” John Wayne – Official Site, 18 Nov. 2015, johnwayne.com/biography/.
Marczynski, Evan. “A Mug Full of Fame.” GoSkagit, 10 Nov. 2014, www.goskagit.com/all_access/a-mug-full-of-fame/article_f70c94ef-e3c7-5f4f-a3ac-ec207aec5494.html.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “John Wayne.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 June 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/John-Wayne.