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Birthplace of the Duke

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

In a little town called Winterset, in the state of Iowa, sits the birthplace of Marion Robert Morrison. The small four-room house — built in the 1880s, with its original stained-glass windows and bull’s-eye woodwork — looks the same today as it did back then. It was here, in 1907, that the man who would be known as John Wayne was born.

“The Duke,” the nickname that Wayne is so fondly remembered by, came to him from his childhood pet, an Airedale Terrier named “Duke.” Family and friends referred to John as “Little Duke” because the dog was so huge.


Wayne, one of the world’s favorite movie stars, began his career as a prop man on the silent movie sets at Fox Studios. From 1925 to 1929, he appeared as an extra in nine silent movies, using both his given name and Duke Morrison. In 1930, he had his first starring role in The Big Trail. For 46 years, he entertained fans with his movies and is credited with making more than 200 movies — although only 179 are known to still be in existence. He was the lead in 142 feature-length films, and received an Academy Award for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.


John Wayne died at the age of 72 and, to this day, the mention of his name evokes feelings of courage and patriotism. Congress approved a gold medal of honor struck with his likeness and these words: John Wayne, American.

Founded in 1982, the John Wayne birthplace is open seven days a week year-round except for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. A small admission fee is charged.

John Wayne Birthplace, (515) 462-1044, johnwaynebirthplace.org.

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