The inspiration to model the “Monkey Mug” came from one Van Briggle collector’s trip to Mexico City in the spring of 1974. While visiting the Museum of Anthropology, Robert Wyman Newton was impressed with the use animals in the pre-Colombian artifacts, and in particular, a vase carved in the shape of a monkey.
Mr. Newton had a desire to create something for Van Briggle Pottery, and after becoming close friends with the Van Briggle Pottery owner, Ken Stevenson, he produced a mug mold. Mr. Newton preferred that the mugs be produced in brown; however, Mr. Stevenson advised him that Van Briggle Pottery did not produce a brown glaze at that time. The first “monkey mugs” were produced in a white glaze, known as the “moonglo” glaze. Mr. Newton thought white an acceptable alternative to the preferred brown color, as he had never seen a monkey in Ming turquoise!
Several months had passed, when Mr. Newton received a package from Van Briggle Pottery, containing a monkey mug in brown! This new color, developed with the “monkey mug” in mind became known as the glaze color “russet.”
As all collectors are aware; Robert Wyman Newton formulated The Catalogue of Van Briggle Designs, an invaluable information source pertaining to the designs created between 1900 and 1912. Now we know that Newton also created one of the highly collectible Van Briggle designs – the “monkey mug!”