The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug is an accurate replica of the historical form, based on original porcelain sherds found by Turk McCleskey and Paul Balassa at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. Marines have a long involvement with Guantanamo Bay, beginning with the Spanish American War in 1898. After the war broke out, Marines were deployed to Guantanamo Bay on the southeastern part of the island to secure a strategic coaling station, a secure anchorage big enough to accommodate United States Navy warships supporting the attack on Spanish forces at Santiago.
Once ashore at Guantanamo Bay, part of the Marine landing force raided Cuzco Well to deny Spanish troops a source of fresh water. Renowned journalist Stephen Crane accompanied the Marines during the Cuzco Well operations, watching events unfold around him with a reporter’s eye and later transcribing them with the same colorful language that makes his novel The Red Badge of Courage such powerful reading.
Most notably, Crane described the heroism leading to one of the three medals of Honor awarded to Marines during the Spanish American War. Sergeant John H. Quick’s courageous actions were forever memorialized in Crane’s reporting.
When heavy shelling from the U.S.S. Dolphin began to land unobserved on a column of Marines maneuvering against Spanish forces, Sergeant Quick grabbed his blue polka dot bandanna, tied it to a stick, and began to semaphore new fire directions to the Dolphin. From the high hill where he was posted, the only way to effectively signal the American ship was to stand in plain view of Quick’s hostile opponents.
According to Crane, “I watched his face, and it was grave and severe as a man writing in his library.” As enemy rounds snapped all around him, Quick signaled calmly, with “not a single trace of nervousness or haste.” Throughout the painstaking task, Crane wrote, “I saw Quick betray only one sign of emotion. As he swung the clumsy flag to and fro, an end of it caught on a cactus pillar. He looked annoyed.”
Stephen Crane, “Under Fire at Guantanamo,” in Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry (New York: The Library of America, 1984): 1056-1057.