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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.



The plane! The plane!

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2012-11-30 16:02 ]

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

First Tiki Mug

DC

T

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:

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?

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2012-11-28 09:45 ]

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.

U

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

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.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=25880&forum=5

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

T

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.

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2012-11-30 16:06 ]

A

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.

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

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...

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? :wink: 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)

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? :)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-12-01 01:48 ]

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Tattoo posted on Sat, Dec 1, 2012 6:39 PM

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."

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.

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.tikicentral.com/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:

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-12-02 02:18 ]

D
dibroc posted on Sun, Dec 2, 2012 5:12 AM

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

T

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 :roll:

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.

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2012-12-02 11:32 ]

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

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2012-12-02 13:17 ]

To sum this all up, I think the Rosebud, the key to the mystery could be finding a living connection to Otagiri Mercantile, as they did the Tiki Bob's mug. But they are a Japanese company that just had reps in the US, and Tiki mugs were just a small side business for them. That's why it burns me to hear that the Spurlin mugs came from the ESTATE of a Otagiri rep - another link died off. I would love to hear how the process of designing a logo mug went - obviously, in many cases, the restaurateur gave the rep something, like a menu, that had the Tiki on it, and the Japanese translated it into a sculpt - yet sometimes Otagiri's designers seem to have came up with the designs on their own.

But I am also not one to be entirely mug-centric in Tiki, I am more interested in the whole picture, the social and historic developments that lead to it happening. I am currently developing a new perspective on Polynesian pop, as I love viewing the phenomenon from new angles: Outsiders always act surprised that I am still at it, after two exhaustive books, but when you delve deeply enough into any subject, it opens up new macro-cosms and facets that you didn't think about yet.

this is a fascinating read, thank you for continuing to re-examine these unanswered questions and reignite that tiki flame that sometimes goes a bit dormant inside of me.

so the objective now is to find a living connection to the otagiri mercantile company. i think i am on the verge of this, but i do not have the detective know-how or time to sink into this.

i have found someone that seems to have some legit info about an older gentleman who claims to have "made the tiki mugs" for the -stockton- islander. as we all know, the stockton islander was a bevy of OMC mugs. and now that i have read this thread, i do see the spurlin copy influence that OMC did with development of their mugs that the stockton islander used -- i never noticed this before! (gasp!) but i digress, this elderly gentleman was an artist and ceramicist according to my contact. he supposedly said that "they" made the tiki mugs in batches of 100 and delivered them on Mondays back in the early days of the stockton islander. i'm not sure how convoluted this information might be, but it is possible that this gentelman was part of OMC since they were based out of SF, and this gentleman now resides in mill valley.

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.

I am both riveted to and fascinated by this thread. The lack of activity/participation on my part is due to sheer intimidation that overwhelms me as I read the expert sleuthing and analytical displays of logic and research posted here. I have nothing to offer but Mahalo. I'm certainly not alone.

On 2013-01-30 20:11, tikicleen wrote:
this elderly gentleman was an artist and ceramicist according to my contact.

go speak to him now, too often I've found a good leed on tiki history through an obituary.

HT

On 2013-01-31 04:30, atomictonytiki wrote:

On 2013-01-30 20:11, tikicleen wrote:
this elderly gentleman was an artist and ceramicist according to my contact.

go speak to him now, too often I've found a good leed on tiki history through an obituary.

Yes. Run to him.

In 1949 Harry Hargreaves designed the Wharetana range of Maori theme souvenir items, including a tiki mug known as "Ruru and Weku" for production by Crown Lynn pottery, New Zealand.
Further information search "Wharetana" on the New Zealand Pottery website. Jeremy.

[ Edited by: nzbungalow 2014-10-18 15:01 ]

I have posted individual photos in my collection (nzbungalow) on ooga mooga.

[ Edited by: nzbungalow 2014-10-18 15:03 ]

Thanks for the photos, nzbungalow, very cool!

While any and all depictions of the Tiki figure are of interest here, the main focus of this site is America's fascination with it in the mid-century. While tourist culture played its part in that, the "Rosebud" we are looking for in this thread would be the first Tiki cocktail mug ever made and used at a Polynesian restaurant in the States.

Well aware of the intent of this topic.
Thousands of GIs were based in NZ during WWII and would have been exposed to NZ Maori culture while here. The Crown Lynn mug was produced from 1949, after the war, but many servicemen settled here and maintained connections with the States. As they were a souvenir item it is likely that some of these mugs made their way to the States before the appearance of the first tiki bar tiki mugs so they cannot be ruled out as having had an influence in the evolution of the bar mug from skull, Fu Mancu, etc to pure tiki. Jeremy

I guess I should say "cannot YET be ruled out" etc.

[ Edited by: nzbungalow 2014-10-18 21:34 ]

Aaaah! - Unlikely, but I like a good argument :)

I think the main criteria that needs to be emphasized
is "Used in a Polynesian Restaurant or Bar" to fall firmly in the Tiki category
otherwise any primitive or south seas influenced ceramics, many predating
the era & aesthetic of Tiki, would just be inaccurately included.

I would also argue that the above Maori themed vessel is a coffee/Tea cup
rather then a Tiki mug.

[ Edited by: Atomic Tiki Punk 2014-10-19 10:03 ]

bigbrotiki, i too like a good argument and I do so like your choice of words. Working as an architectural historian I have enjoyed watching the unlikely turn out to be the actuality. And as a collector of New Zealand pottery I have identified some very unlikely influences, including, pertinently, an early-1960s-designed Maori tiki mug, reproduced in 1971 by Crown Lynn, and again in the 1980s by Parker Pottery, which I believe to be a remodelling of the Efcco Ku mug, yet which clearly depicts a carved Maori face. The Crown Lynn one can be seen in my ooga mooga collection and the Parker one in that of Paipo.

Atomic Tiki Punk, yes this mug is not a tiki mug in the definition of your sub-culture but is a tiki mug nevertheless, and I believe it is a significant one as I am yet to be made aware of any Polynesian-themed ceramic pre-dating this that makes the shift from a piece of ceramic with themed transfers to one where the Polynesian theme becomes the body of the piece.

As ceramics were not part of the pre-contact Polynesian culture, this could be the first ceramic mug from a Polynesian country (New Zealand), possibly the world, to depict a tiki face in its shape. I look forward to seeing something earlier. Until that appears, your only chance of excluding its influence is to produce a tiki-faced tiki mug in wood or bamboo that predates it. Produce either of those (ceramic or wood) and I will concede that the possibility of influence diminishes.

BTW. I have yet to see the Wharetana mug defined as a coffee or tea mug by Crown Lynn who routinely used definers tea, coffee, or beer, in their mug shape descriptions.

Nice to see this post active again. After reading through it, I thought of another possible candidate for the answer - the Kalua Room in Seattle. We know from Tikicoma's research that it opened in 1953 and used a Tiki for a logo from the outset.

An early drink menu I have shows this Tiki Tiki mug.

Which was obviously a local production made for the Kalua Room

The drink prices on the menu are also in line with the early Tiki Bob's drink prices seen on this menu.

If not the first, this could have been one of the earliest.

DC

Great mug and an interesting read nzbungalow... Thanks for posting it

Let's not forget about those ceramic Coconut Mugs that we have seen in
many of the tropical Pre-Tiki clubs & restaurants from the 1930s etc.

F

As one having such a love for history, this is such a great thread! I would hope there are some members of the forum that are stationed in Japan, and or have business there that can dive in to some local research.

Looking forward to seeing what flushes out.

On 2014-10-19 18:32, Atomic Tiki Punk wrote:
Let's not forget about those ceramic Coconut Mugs that we have seen in
many of the tropical Pre-Tiki clubs & restaurants from the 1930s etc.

We did not forget, it's just that those are…COCONUT mugs. Tiki mugs are mugs that depict Tikis. Just like Tiki style is the part of Polynesian pop that features the Tiki as the main icon - (not the usual Hula Girl/palm tree/pineapple/ukelele/tropical fish/lei/outrigger/native hut.)

As far as the New Zealand mug goes: Tiki style is defined as an American pop culture happening in the United States in the mid-century. It was certainly INSPIRED by Polynesian and Hawaiian art, but became its own pop culture genre which went far beyond the original art forms. THIS is what makes it unique.

Tourist items from Polynesia were certainly brought back to decorate home bars, but they are not considered an intrinsic part of American Tiki pop. When we look at the initial post by Tatoo that opened this thread, all the mugs and bars that are mentioned are within the Tiki style genre. This thread is really asking the question "What was the first Tiki mug used in American Tiki bars".

All the the fringe items mentioned earlier are certainly of interest, but they do not address the core question here.

DC, the Seattle Kahlua Room Tiki Mug is certainly a good contender. The bummer is that again, the date of the menu is not known. Just judging by the style of modernist marker-pen graphics, I would peg it to be late rather than early 50s.

Hmm, that's some major hair-splitting going on over on the other side of the Pacific regarding that 1949 Crown Lynn tiki mug from New Zealand. :)

New Zealanders are not particular about what they put in their mugs and that item could easily have been used for any number of different varieties of alcohol. In a country where people used to (and still do) drink alcohol out of jam jars, anything goes. lol

I recall a similar initial reaction of disbelief when I posted those pics of the Wanganui Savage Club on Tiki Central a few years ago; a Polynesian-themed social club founded by European New Zealanders in the early 1890s, where they dressed up like Maoris, sang Maori songs, followed Maori meeting protocol, and addressed each other using Maori ranks. Tiki carvings featured prominently therein decades before they were adopted by Polynesian style bars and restaurants in California.

It looks like once again we have a Kiwi precursor that is upsetting some established theories, although I doubt whether that NZ mug had any influence on US tiki mug design. :)

I now have a hankering to see if I can actually track down a photo of someone drinking from a Crown Lynn tiki mug in the Wanganui Savage Club circa 1949....

That's all good and fine, folks, and as I voiced earlier, I LOVE the Wanganui Social club - it's just not American Tiki Pop.

From "About Tiki Central":

Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop
Tiki Central is a place to celebrate the classic Tiki Bars of the mid-century and the design aesthetic they established. This movement grew in popularity after World War II when America had a new fascination with the South Seas and Hawaii. Tiki Bars sought to bring an idealized tropical paradise into the concrete jungle of the Modern World. Very little of it was genuine -- born mostly out of the likes of Hollywood art directors and modern architects -- but it all seemed real to a then-naïve public’s eye. The Tiki style started in bars and restaurants but soon spilled over into all forms of popular culture, including music, food, dress, TV and movies, and other forms of architecture.

The Tiki that Tiki Central focuses on is a mid-century American invention that is Polynesia-inspired. We’re here to discuss classic Tiki, what made it great, how to celebrate it and preserve it today, and how to create and influence new Tiki that isn’t generic, watered down, or misguided.

Thanks, yet again, Sven for the clarification. Hope it sinks in this time. :D

That's all good and fine too BigBro, but the starting question for this thread was quite simple: "What was the first Tiki mug?"

Not "what was the first tiki mug served in an American Polynesian-style bar or restaurant". And discussion on this topic is not even strictly limited to US-manufactured mugs, as we know that a large number of early "American" tiki mugs were actually made in Japan. :)

It's not that, down here in New Zealand, we don't get the whole North American sub-culture that you have discovered and outlined, it's just that it is not as unique as you would have us believe.

I find this Crown Lynn item fascinating, as tiki mugs are what are presented to us as being a unique hallmark of Californian-style tiki culture. Yet when a tiki mug is presented that appears to predate all of them, it is ruled out of contention because it was not used at Trader Vic's or wherever. Curious....

That Crown Lynn mug is not a traditional Maori artifact; it is a mid-century design from 1949 that appears to predate the first American tiki mug (which seems to date from 1953, judging from the beautiful pieces shown by Dustycajun).

Tikis were integrated into popular iconography and everyday items in New Zealand decades before they were in the US, and this Crown Lynn mug is just one example. Others could be pointed to in terms of items such as ashtrays, beer bottles, postcards, postage stamps, book covers and so on. Such items may sit uncomfortably with theories regarding the primacy and uniqueness of US tiki pop artifacts, but they continue to exist nonetheless. :)

So we now have a tiki mug from 1949 and it happens to come from New Zealand. Are there any earlier ones out there from the US? Or Japan? :)

Once you write a book or two that delineate New Zealand Tiki Pop as a coherent art form that rivals American Tiki I'll buy the claim of its importance. For now, I can't see its spread and pervasiveness in New Zealand to be anywhere near that of American Tiki Style in mid-century America, sorry. :D

That's a fair point - there is no such book on New Zealand, and it is a gap in our cultural history. A book on the topic of pop tiki culture here would be an eye-opener on various levels and it is a topic that has not been explored by New Zealanders. Discussion of use of tiki and Maori iconography in popular culture here has been limited by considerations of political correctness, and even the term "plastic tiki" still has inferences of cultural exploitation and colonialism here.

But you should know I love your books - they changed my life. :)



Toto, j'ai l'impression que nous ne sommes plus au Kansas !

[ Edited by: Club Nouméa 2014-10-23 15:25 ]

Back to our originally scheduled program - the first Tiki Mug used in American Tiki bars.

Obviously, the mug will predate the OMC mugs that came from Japan.

How about the early Tiki mugs from Sam's Seafood as seen in this postcard from the gift shop?

One way to date these would be to find a used postcard with a postmark. Unfortunately, the ones that I own are unused. The same can be said for the Kalua Room mug theory I posted earlier.

Anybody got a postmarked card from these locations?

DC

T

I started this thread with the definition of a Tiki mug to be not only an actual mug from a tiki bar meant for Tiki Drinks (a good first qualifier would be - “Would I serve a Mai Tai in this?”) - but also to me, the charm being that the mug in itself is in the shape of a Tiki. Not just server-ware (or a tourist item) with a Tiki print or motive on it. And it’s quite obvious that nzbungalow's 1949 Crown Lynn “tiki mug” is a simple coffee mug, a tourist item, with a Tiki design on it and does not belong in this thread. No offense, but it doesn’t.

Our Tiki passion here on Tiki Central is all rooted in one thing - the Tiki Bar. A wonderful and unique movement where restaurants and bars became a tropical escape. Unique in its lavish decorations and passion to create a complete faux tropical get away - often in areas that were anything but. And one of the most unique items from this very American movement was the addition of serving the tropical drinks in tropical mugs. Eventually actually serving them in mugs that were the form of miniature Tiki's.

And when we talk of Tiki mugs, we always mean one that was used at one of these establishments and meant to serve… Tiki drinks. The fun and passion of tiki mug collecting is to find mugs with restaurant names imprinted on them and see the exotic mug listed with an exotic drink on an original menu. So when I asked “What is the first Tiki mug,” it was to find the first mug in the shape of Tiki that was used at a Tiki Bar. The Tiki Bar connection is the most critical and relevant aspect in this thread.

That is what this thread is about: what was the first Tiki mug made for a Tiki bar used to serve a Tiki drink in.

[ Edited by: tattoo 2014-10-24 07:22 ]

That is the criteria I am also using, would you agree to "Must have it's origin in
a Polynesian Club/Restaurant/Bar"?

And further defined for this thread as having a direct "Tiki style" design.

Crown Lynn and the other New Zealand pottery companies did create some really cool stuff, but they're not tiki mugs. I'd be happy to own any of their Wharetana Ware. I've been Googling images of their creations and they're great!

If you want to see some pics of it.
http://www.newzealandpottery.net/gallery/Wharetana-Ware/Wharetana-Ware-cat_c3.htm

T

O.K. this will be shot and ugly so forgive any mistakes. I've a Seattle Outrigger menu dated july 1952 marked OPA price controls ('51-'53) in effect. Comparing it to Dustys Kalua Room menu, leaving out the tropical drinks whose ingredients could vary, the Kalua Room scotch, blends, whiskeys and a few standards like Ramos Fizz were a nickel more. With the end of price controls in early '53 I'm guessing bars would have soon raised prices. Also the mismarked MOHI Outrigger/ really Kalua room photo from 9/59 shows a png drum mug and what looks like the base of the tiki tiki mug, I've seen the postcard with people being served the drum mugs postmarked 1958. What can we take from this? I guess all we can say is somewhere between '53 and '58 they had a tiki mug, from the prices I'd say earlier than later but nothing definite.

aloha tikicoma

This thread has taken a somewhat surreal turn that reminds me of the great Magritte:

So, in his honour, I humbly submit the following:

And I shall leave it at that. :)

Haha, very clever :)

Let's clarify: Nobody here said that the Wharetena coffee mug cannot be called a Tiki mug! What tikilongbeach meant with her post (and what is easy to miss-read as a blank statement) was:

On 2014-10-24 12:07, tikilongbeach wrote:
Crown Lynn and the other New Zealand pottery companies did create some really cool stuff, but they're not tiki mugs. I'd be happy to own any of their Wharetana Ware.

…merely that that company made many OTHER Tiki shaped and Tiki-adorned items that are NOT mugs, but ashtrays, bowls, bookends, etc. And, yes, they are indeed beautiful, and I bet rare and expensive (I once tried for those Moko bookends, they went sky-high)

All we are saying here is that that mug is not a Tiki bar cocktail mug, and as that not really relevant to the lineage and evolution of American Tiki Pop. And you did read the clarification by Tattoo that that is the original question that he started this thread for, right?

You might think this is an "ethnocentric" stance, but as I mentioned earlier, it is important to stick to the definitions of what American Tiki style is, because otherwise the confusion that caused it to be not recognized in the first place will continue:

American Tiki style was not acknowledged as its own genre in the mid-50s to mid-60s because folks thought of it as "being from Hawaii", or "from the islands", and called it "Polynesian style". With my work, I want to make clear that, though it was INSPIRED by Polynesia, it became its own art form on the American mainland, one that went far beyond in stylization and spread than what had happened on the islands, and that American craftsmen and designers can be proud of, instead of hiding in shame as they did when it was derided as tasteless kitsch in the mid-century.

So much confusion still exists about these delineations, and about what is Pre-Tiki Pop and what is Tiki Pop, that whenever there is a blurring of the line, I try to clarify. I do not expect the average citizen to get it or to care, but if we here on Tiki Central don't, who will :)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2014-10-25 00:26 ]

Tikicoma, good point about the prices on the Kalua Room menu, they are very low.

There is another mug in that menu that might help us trace its date: The Beachcomber Grog with the popular Marc Bellaire Beachcomber design.

If we can pinpoint WHEN this "Crown Prince of Ceramics" first came up with this design, and if it was not until the MID or LATE 50s, the menu cannot be from the EARLY 50s.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2014-10-25 01:10 ]

I don't have much to add other than this thread and ones like it are the reason I was originally drawn to TC. The image of the Beachcomber design by Marc Bellaire posted by Sven is from a 1957 how to book written by Bellaire. He served in the navy in the South Pacific during WWII which may well have influenced his Beachcomber line. Bellaire opened his Culver City studio in 1951 to produce his designs for national demand. Not sure if any of this is relevant but may help narrow the timeline down a bit.

Good, I didn't have that date info cuz I am not at home. However, the page in that 1957 booklet says:

"The Beachcomber is such a popular Bellaire design that it virtually has become his trademark"

How long does it take to reach such a popularity? More than one year, one would think. So the design might have already existed in 1955…perhaps even in 1954?

To re-iterate DC's post from the previous page:

On 2014-10-19 18:16, Dustycajun wrote:
Nice to see this post active again. After reading through it, I thought of another possible candidate for the answer - the Kalua Room in Seattle. We know from Tikicoma's research that it opened in 1953 and used a Tiki for a logo from the outset.

An early drink menu I have shows this Tiki Tiki mug.

Which was obviously a local production made for the Kalua Room

The drink prices on the menu are also in line with the early Tiki Bob's drink prices seen on this menu.

If not the first, this could have been one of the earliest.

DC

I really think this is a promising direction worth pursuing. I have now been convinced by everybody's findings that the Kalua Room opened with a Tiki Logo in 1953. (DECEMBER of 1953, so really 1954). It does seem likely that that menu was in place at its opening, or shortly thereafter. That WOULD make that mug the first Tiki mug.

But we have no proof of the menu's date, damn. How can we find out? Forensic analysis of a chip of clay from the mug? Who has those two mugs?

And what about that Tiki bowl? Anybody seen one of those?:

I am hoping for some kind of additional confirmation before I add the Kalua Room mug to my Tiki mug timeline on page 1.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2014-10-26 09:30 ]

The pricing on the menu is consistent with other menus from the early 1950s.

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