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Tiki Central Forums Collecting Tiki What was the first Tiki mug?
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What was the first Tiki mug?
Tattoo
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Sep 24, 2005
Posts: 233
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2012-11-27 10:35 pm   Permalink

There's always been a question about what might actually be the first Tiki mug that I thought I would start a thread - since nobody seems to know for sure. I'm not a big menu collector so my candidates are based mostly on Tiki Central postings and internet research. The rest is just based on what I feel and presumed are the age of certain mugs.

The first Tiki barware was the Tiki bowl introduced by Trader Vic circa 1952. Oddly, as Bigbrotiki observed, they never made the leap to mug. The Sufferin' Bastard mug being a gift store item from the 60s and not counting more recent mugs. Even some of the other older establishments that had mugs like Don the Beachcomber and Skipper Kent's Zombie Village never had any Tiki mugs. So what was the first Tiki mug? Here are my finalists:

1. Tiki Bob

There's a picture from the 1959 November issues of Rogue magazine that shows a fine gentleman drinking from a Tiki Bob mug.



2. Los Angeles Islander Husband Killer Tiki Mug

There's the famed 1960 Los Angeles Islander Life magazine photo showing the old lady drinking from the Husband Killer Tiki mug. I've always felt that this should be the first Tiki mug because it just so perfectly embodies the concept of a Tiki as a mug (and all the Spurlin ceramics just look ancient).



3. The Waikiki Tiki Mug

The short lived Waikiki in Washington DC opened in 1959 and had this Tiki mug which I have presumed they had from the start.



4. The Hawaiian Room Tiki Mug

However, I have always felt that the Tiki mug from Hawaiian Room might even be earlier.



Here's an old picture showing a lady drinking from their Tiki mug. Unfortunately it's undated but it does feel like it's late 50s in my opinion.



5. Tiki Bob's Maori Mug

And then there's the Tiki Bob Maori mug with the early Otagiri design of the Lei around the Tiki Bob name on the back. With absolutely no evidence and based on zero research, I always presumed that this was Tiki Bob's first mug before they got their own signature mug. And thus I would date this as pre-1959.



Interestingly, it does appear that Otagiri was in business at the same time (if not earlier) as Spurlin. Otagiri did take over/copy/rip off most of the Spurlin Tiki mugs, barrel mugs and bowls later on but they both started at about the same time.

Anyhow, I would love to hear what other people think might be the first Tiki mug.

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[ This Message was edited by: Tattoo 2012-11-30 16:02 ]


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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4396
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2012-11-27 10:56 pm   Permalink

Good question. A rather exhaustive discussion on the topic can be found here.

First Tiki Mug

DC


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Tattoo
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Sep 24, 2005
Posts: 233
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2012-11-28 09:40 am   Permalink

DC

Thanks for the link! Wow, an exhaustive discussion indeed. I definitely don't want to get into a discussion of what is a "Tiki mug", but in fact try to answer Sven's main question of what was the first mug in the shape of a Tiki. It is purely a technical (i.e. Tiki nerd) question and one that on some level defines the start of the Polynesian Pop movement.

Fitting for this thread, I'll quote Sven here:

Quote:

On 2008-07-22 08:17, bigbrotiki wrote:
Soooo......IF we agree to my theory that TIKI STYLE (and the TIKI PERIOD) is defined by the use of the TIKI LIKENESS as a primary symbol for Polynesia (when before it was the Hula Girl and other icons) AND that the TIKI MUG is THE embodiment of that so defined TIKI STYLE, can you still, in good conscience, call the Don The Beachcomber mug a TIKI mug?

Just because e-bay and the general public (which really doesn't care about such pop culture history specifics) do, does not make it so. By definition, a Tiki mug is a mug that depicts a Tiki. All others are Hula Girl/Skull/Fu Manchu/whatever mugs. That is not being narrow minded, it's being logical.

The exact time and origin of the FIRST Tiki mug is shrouded in mystery. Was it a small home manufacturer that made the first one, or an Asian wholesaler, most likely OMC? Here are my observations:

Trader Vic was the first to introduce the Tiki cocktail vessel with his TIKI BOWL. Bob Bryant, who used to be Vic's bar manager (!), left him and opened Tiki Bob's in 1955. He might not have used the Tiki Bob mug right away, but even if he did only by 1957/58, that makes him a candidate for being the first.

Stephen Crane took over The Tropics and opened The Luau in 1953, and even though he used a Tiki as a logo on the menu cover, match books and glasses, the Luau did not use Tiki mugs. The famed Steve Crane mugs did not come into use until the opening of his Kon Tikis and Ports of Call in the late 50s/early 60s.

Since most menus do not have dates, it will be hard to pinpoint the first appearance of a Tiki-shaped mug, but my money is on the Tiki Bob.



Well, my money is on Tiki Bob as well but not the Tiki Bob logo mug, but the Tiki Bob Maori mug. Just a gut feeling that's all. Or was it the Hawaiian Room Tiki mug... And for that matter, who first came up with using the Easter Island Moai as a Tiki mug?

[ This Message was edited by: Tattoo 2012-11-28 09:45 ]


 
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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11243
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2012-11-30 12:32 pm   Permalink

The hard thing in determining a FIRST here is that one cannot ascertain that when any of these places opened they had the the Tiki mug thing going rightaway: Using a TIKI design for their cocktail containers could have happened years down the line. Hard dates to any of the visuals are needed!

I for one really appreciate your re-opening the question. Not because I am quoted, but because this is STILL an unsolved riddle that should be on the forefront of any serious Tiki collector's mind. But the lack of reaction to your thread, and not the slightest activity in the advancement of this age-old mystery by any readers here, seem like just another nail in the coffin of Tiki Central.



 
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ukutiki
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Joined: Feb 25, 2009
Posts: 197
From: Michigan
Posted: 2012-11-30 1:39 pm   Permalink

Where was the Washington Room mentioned in this thread? Mahalo.

 
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uncle trav
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Joined: Apr 27, 2005
Posts: 1816
From: Kalamazoo
Posted: 2012-11-30 2:34 pm   Permalink

Great thread. This question has been on my mind. Some time ago I posted a thread asking if the Fogcutter could be one of the very first dedicated mugs used in Polynesian restaurants in the heyday of classic Tiki. Keep up the good work. Here is a link to the thread.
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=25880&forum=5
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4396
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2012-11-30 3:25 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2012-11-30 13:39, ukutiki wrote:
Where was the Washington Room mentioned in this thread? Mahalo.



That was a typo, Tattoo was referring to the Hawaiian Room and the Lexington Hotel in New York.

Hawaiian Room

Now back to our mystery.

DC


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Tattoo
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Sep 24, 2005
Posts: 233
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2012-11-30 3:49 pm   Permalink

Just realized the typo. I did mean the Hawaiian Room in New York.

Great thread Uncle Trav! The Fog Cutter does seem to be the first dedicated drink mug - sorry about not calling it a Tiki mug in this thread - and that it was most likely started by Trader Vic. Although it is curious why that particular drink has a dedicate mug style named after it. However, I think that the Hollywood Don the Beachcomber mug might be an even earlier pre-Trader Vic mug. If not... the first "mug"?


(courtesy of pa'akiki)
Does anyone know the story and dates behind these DTB mugs?

But for a particular shaped mug named universally for a specific drink, the Fog Cutter would have to be it. Which always made me feel that the Hawaiian Room and Waikiki mugs are such early Tiki Mugs BECAUSE they are in fact a Fog Cutter mug with a Tiki plastered on it. Same could be said really about the Tiki Bob logo mug even though it's based on their own carving (or was the carving based on the mug?). Those three mugs are an evolution of the Fog Cutter. Which separates the Tiki Bob Maori and Los Angeles Islander Husband Killer mugs as being a real departure because those mugs are meant to resemble a real Tiki.


[ This Message was edited by: Tattoo 2012-11-30 16:06 ]


 
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arriano
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Joined: Jun 13, 2006
Posts: 1299
From: Dog Patch - San Diego
Posted: 2012-11-30 4:11 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2012-11-30 12:32, bigbrotiki wrote:
But the lack of reaction to your thread, and not the slightest activity in the advancement of this age-old mystery by any readers here, seem like just another nail in the coffin of Tiki Central.





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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11243
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2012-12-01 01:33 am   Permalink

Aaaah, very good, gentlemen! I am glad I stirred up some responses!

Quote:

On 2012-11-30 15:49, Tattoo wrote:
Those three mugs are an evolution of the Fog Cutter. Which separates the Tiki Bob Maori and Los Angeles Islander Husband Killer mugs as being a real departure because those mugs are meant to resemble a real Tiki.



Interesting point about the Fog Cutter mugs and their shape. Perhaps, indeed, the Hawaiian Room owners said (to ....?) "Make us a Fog Cutter mug, but with a Hawaiian idol on it !" and Voila! And only then did designers notice that the carved Tiki log already comes in the basic shape of a glass/mug which makes it a given to apply the image to the utensil, here is the clearest (later) example of that fact:



But Tatoo, what else than a "feeling" makes you think the Tiki Bob Maori mug would be the first? According to oral testimony from Bob and Leroy, the first TIKI mugs they believe to have seen appear are Stella Bodie's (spelling?) Spurlin mugs for the Islander LA restaurant. So your pegging of the "husband killer" mug (only named so for the photo with the old lady) is on the money. But, while I do not doubt the O.A. elders, there is still no dated, printed proof. Do we have the actual opening date of that place? The famous LIFE photos were taken in the early 60s.

Re the Maori mug, I cannot concur with your view...

Quote:

On 2012-11-27 22:35, Tattoo wrote:
And then there's the Tiki Bob Maori mug with the early Otagiri design of the Lei around the Tiki Bob name on the back. With absolutely no evidence and based on zero research, I always presumed that this was Tiki Bob's first mug before they got their own signature mug. And thus I would date this as pre-1959.



Could it be possible that you are not in the possession of the Book of Tiki? In it, I clearly show the genesis of the Tiki Bob mug as stemming from the 1955 menu cover that Alec Yuil-Thornton designed for Bob Bryant, whom he must have known from both of the gentlemen working for Trader Vic. That Thornton based his modernist cartoonish Tiki design on an African Ngil mask is another story (which I related in Tiki Modern)

The Tiki Bob mug is a good guess as the first, not only because it is likely to have been there early after the opening of the place in 1955, but Tiki Bob's was the first place to use the TIKI moniker in its name, and the Tiki figure as a logo, for the entrance Tiki, the menu, matchbooks, mugs and S&P shakers. Which marks the emergence of TIKI STYLE, being born OUT OF Polynesian pop. (I credit Don The Beachcomber in the 1930s as the great originator of Polynesian Pop)

Quote:

On 2012-11-28 09:40, Tattoo wrote:
I definitely don't want to get into a discussion of what is a "Tiki mug", but in fact try to answer Sven's main question of what was the first mug in the shape of a Tiki. It is purely a technical (i.e. Tiki nerd) question and one that on some level defines the start of the Polynesian Pop movement.



And, last not least, it is debatable that the birth of Tiki style (defined as using the Tiki as a graphic logo, a utensil, and an architectural feature) can be tied to the Tiki mug. While the mug best symbolizes the style, before there were Tiki mugs, not only Tiki Bob's and Steve Crane's Luau, but also the Beverly Hilton "The Traders" used a Tiki (as opposed to a Hula girl or any other Polynesian icon) as the central logo on their menus for the first time (in 1955).

A related side question: Did the Luau and the Trader Vic Tiki S&P shakers appear before the Tiki mug did?

[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-12-01 01:48 ]


 
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Tattoo
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Sep 24, 2005
Posts: 233
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2012-12-01 6:39 pm   Permalink

As far as the Spurlin Otagiri question, I want to add a relevant quote here from another thread about an e-bay listing. It's interesting because the items sold were from an OMC sales rep who had in possession two Spurlin Tiki mugs with one marked "Original Islander."

Quote:

On 2006-09-02 07:54, Tiki Kollektor wrote:
I'm curious about these mugs that just sold on ebay. If anyone missed them, they were apparently from the estate of an OMC sales rep. I know from Ooga Mooga that the first one is a Tiki Bob's Maori (it sold for $212):



But the two other ones do not seem to be listed on Ooga Mooga (at least I couldnt find them) so I was wondering if anyone had seen them before and had more info? Since they were marked as OMC samples, and the red one was pencil noted "Original Islander", I'm sure someday I'll regret not bidding huge on them. But congratulations to the collectors who got them! -- I'm just learning about tiki mugs, but I suspect these were something special:

This one sold for $180:



And this one sold for $167:







Quite obvious that OMC had in their possession the Spurlin mugs and made copies of them. And as far as the timeline is concerned, those Life magazine pictures of the Los Angeles Islander are, according to Getty images, from August 1960.


 
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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11243
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2012-12-02 01:37 am   Permalink

Thank You for following up with that Spurlin sale info, I missed the fact that they came from an OMC rep. That effectively answers my question posed here: http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=35643&forum=5&vpost=656266
Did anyone find out where that large Spurlin hoard originated that sold recently?

I am gonna try to get some more light shed on this issue from Bob & Leroy. In the meantime, lets try piece together an approximate, possible evolution of the Tiki mug:

1940s: Trader Vic introduces the concept of the themed ceramic cocktail vessel with his Fog Cutter, Kava Bowl and Skull mugs:



Early 1950s: Trader Vic introduces the first cocktail drink vessel depicting Tikis, for a drink aptly called the Tiki Bowl (based on traditional Hawaiian drinking bowls), designed by Dickman Walker (Your find, Tatoo!):



1955: After leaving as the bar manager of Trader Vic's San Francisco, Bob Bryant opens "Tiki Bob's" one block South of Vic's SF and has architect/designer/illustrator Alec Yuill-Thornton render the logo Tiki for him, from which the FIRST TIKI MUG is sculpted:





This also marks the dawning of Tiki Style, as a Tiki is used in NAME, ARCHITECTURE, and LOGO MERCHANDISE



(In addition, sometime after, the Tiki Bob MAORI MUG (see above) could be the first to depict the full, round figure of a Tiki )

Mid- to late 50s perhaps: A Tiki is depicted on the N.Y. "Hawaiian Room" Fog Cutter mug (see above)

Late 1950s (1957/58/59?): Stella Bodie sculpts the Spurlin mugs for "The Islander" restaurant in L.A. The Tiki mug and bowl Tikis design is likely based on a Tiki carved by Demetrio Chavez:



1960 (around)- early 60s: Otagiri Merchandising obtains the whole set of Spurlin vessels and copies the Tiki bowl and mug, and proceeds to design and offer more and more ceramic cocktail containers in the shape of a Tiki:



I believe that the Tiki mug did not become a common place Polynesian restaurant item until the early 1960s. The pic above is a late 60s line-up of what Otagiri offered - not including the many individual logo Tiki mugs they designed over the years.

Late 1960s - 70s: Orchids of Hawaii continues in the "Tiki Transmission" tradition, and ushers in the Devolution of Tiki in the 70s:




[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-12-02 02:18 ]


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dibroc
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 29, 2006
Posts: 377
From: Sunny Southern Califiorina
Posted: 2012-12-02 05:12 am   Permalink

Not sure if this helps. Several years ago I showed this Spurlin mug to Bob @ OA. At that time he told me he it was indeed a Spurlin mug and he believed it to be the first Tiki Mug manufactured.



This Picture is from Kate's collection on OM


 
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Tattoo
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Sep 24, 2005
Posts: 233
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2012-12-02 11:30 am   Permalink

Wow Sven! Thanks for posting a timeline for us all. The one thing that is striking is that all these early Tiki mugs appeared seemingly independent of each other all around the same time. In the late 50s we have Otagiri in San Francisco with Tiki Bob, Spurlin in Los Angeles, and on the East Coast an unidentified maker with the Hawaiian Room. As if spontaneously everyone came up with the concept of the Tiki as a mug idea. What made people associate the pacific and the tropics not with hula girls and palm trees but with the Tiki idol? The Kon Tiki exploration? I feel the answer is in the Book of Tiki - which, like a good Tiki nut, I do have! I better read it tonight before I theorize anymore without some proper research. However, my copy is falling apart and it sure would be nice if they were to re-publish it

Dibroc, I forgot about that Spurlin mug. Not sure if it was associated with the Los Angeles Islander. Also, not sure what Tiki god that is supposed to be based on. It almost seems like a ghost of a Tiki. A hint of what was about to come!

Also, Sven, I did talk to seller of that collection of Los Angeles Islander mugs and bowls. I bought my Islander Tiki mug from him. He simply said he was always into going to flea markets and bought these about 15 years ago. Got married, Tiki collection gets boxed up, and now it's time for a new car. Not much more info than that. Just a guy who thought these looked cool before anyone knew what they were.

[ This Message was edited by: Tattoo 2012-12-02 11:32 ]


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11243
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2012-12-02 12:24 pm   Permalink

Rillly? Man, I was sure that guy had SOME connection with the Islander or Spurlin, considering the completeness of the group...and the broken girl piece... if he got these at flea markets, he must have been doing that more like 25 years ago, or earlier. I knew some hunters and collectors out there already in the 90s paying the 7:30 am early bird fee at the Rose Bowl to zero in on this kinda stuff. Then again, compared to other glossy mugs, the Spurlin mugs appeared not that well made, outwardly, for early mug collectors. The awareness of their rareness raised their intrinsic value.

The synchronicity of Tikis appearing in various places is proof of the Zeitgeist of the late 50s, where people were looking for more extreme esthetics. Like I pointed out in Tiki Modern, I believe it has to do with primitive art becoming accepted as hip decor.

Also, after he read the BOT, Florian Gabriel wrote this to me to share his view as a contributing designer: By the late 50s, the classic Polynesian style of the WWII generation and before was on the way of becoming an old hat, but then Tiki style gave Polynesian Pop one more shot in the arm before it went down - not in a blaze, more like with a whimper.

Tiki style existed for a relatively short time span, from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, really only peaking around 1960/'61/'62/'63


[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-12-02 13:17 ]


 
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