The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ is based on dated fragments of original Marine Corps enlisted mess hall china recovered from a dump site in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In the early twentieth century, mess hall mugs, plates, bowls, and condiment containers were stamped with “U.S.M.C.” and the year of production.
The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ is made in Newell, West Virginia, by the Homer Laughlin China Company. For well over a century, Homer Laughlin has produced high-quality porcelain products, including world-famous Fiesta® line of dinner ware. Designers at Homer Laughlin recreated The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ from original fragments provided by Turk McCleskey and Paul Balassa, the co-founders of Glass Beach Mugs, LLC.
The mug has a maximum diameter at the rim of 4 inches and stands over 3.5 inches tall. It holds over 13 fluid ounces and has an empty weight of about 1 pound 4 ounces.
Like the original Marine Corps mugs, the handle-less 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ is built for durability. Thick high-fired porcelain walls make this a tough mug to damage. The mug’s rim was chip-tested at Homer Laughlin China Company’s laboratory using the “Impact at Rim” test described in the American Society for Testing and Materials C368-88, paragraph 7. In that test, a pendulum consisting of a steel wedge was swung against the mug’s rim with a maximum impact in excess of 0.5 foot-pounds. The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ did not chip under that blow.
The mug owes its exceptional toughness in part to the fact that it is molded from clay in a process known as jiggering. By contrast, most modern mugs are slip cast from a soupy slurry of clay particles. The original Marine Corps handle-less mugs also were jiggered, not slip cast. Jiggering is more expensive than slip-casting, but we believe it produces a superior product that is faithful to the original process.
After jiggering, the raw clay mug forms are fired in a kiln, producing an unglazed greenware form. When cool, each piece of greenware is individually stamped with the distinctive “U.S.M.C. 1917” back-stamp, as licensed to Glass Beach Mugs, LLC by Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. (Retail mugs bear a serialized hologram sticker attesting to our license.)
Finally, the mugs are given a coat of clear glaze and fired again. The back-stamp thus is protected under the mug’s glaze; the lettering will not fade under repeated mechanical dish-washing. The glaze passes the heating-and-cold-water-immersion crazing test described in American Society for Testing and Materials C554-93, “Crazing Resistance of Fired Glaze by Thermal Shock Method.”
Some modern coffee drinkers may be concerned about the absence of a handle. When beverages are heated to 175°F (the high end of coffee’s recommended temperature range), the mug will feel hot if it is filled to the brim. Remember, however, that mugs like this were originally used aboard rocking ships and would not have been filled to the brim. Hot mugs can be comfortably gripped with a thumb on the rim and fingers on the mug’s foot (the rough circular ridge on the bottom of the mug). And remember also that the hands tough enough to wrest Belleau Wood from the German Army in 1918 had been drinking coffee from mugs like this before embarking for France.
In one important way, The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ is superior to the original; it is lead free. The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ is also microwavable, dishwasher safe, and oven safe.
Individual versions of The 1917 Centennial Watch Mug™ are available for your purchase through this web site. Individual versions are shipped protectively in 32 pounds-per-inch edge-crush-test cardboard cartons. The individual carton also contains a printed insert with information about the mug, historical photographs of Marines, and an original poster.