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The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum celebrates the life and legacy of actor John Wayne, who was born here in Winterset in 1907. The museum consists of his birthplace home and an exhibit building, which also includes a movie theater and gift shop. One of two museums in the world dedicated to the celebrated actor (the other is in Fort Worth, Texas and opened in December 2020), it houses the largest collection of John Wayne memorabilia anywhere. These include scripts, contracts, original movie posters, letters, film costumes, artwork, and a customized automobile. The house has been restored to its 1907 appearance and features pictures and memorabilia on display. It is located next to the exhibit building.

The museum building opened in 2015. A statue of Wayne greets visitors on the museum grounds.

Plant, Sky, Building, Window

The museum collection includes costumes, movie posters, and scripts.

Sculpture, Interior design, Art, Picture frame

Wayne's birthplace home has been restored to its 1907 appearance.

Plant, Flower, Sky, Building

John Wayne was born on May 26, 1907. His birth name was Marion Robert Morrison and that remained his legal name for the rest of his life. His father, Clyde, worked as a pharmacist on the south side of the town square. During his childhood, the Wayne family lived in other Iowa towns (Earlham, Des Moines, Keokuk, and Brooklyn) before moving California. As a young man, Wayne attended the University of Southern California and played on the football team. He lost his scholarship after he broke his collarbone and had to drop out.

His movie career got its start when actor and director Tom Mix hired him as a prop boy and extra around 1927. Wayne began to get small parts in films and started using "John Wayne" as his screen name. After making over 70 films, Wayne finally made it big with the movie Stagecoach (1939). Over the course of his career he made almost 250 films. Wayne was also known for conservative views and co-founded the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in 1944. In his later years Wayne had a number of health problems. A cancerous lung was removed in 1964, in 1978 he had heart valve replacement surgery, and in January 1979 his stomach, which was cancerous, was removed. He succumbed to the disease on June 11, 1979.

The museum was established in 1982 as the John Wayne Birthplace Society. Over a million visitors, including President Ronald Reagan, have visited the site over the years. The museum building was erected in 2015.

"About the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum." John Wayne Birthplace & Museum. Accessed January 5, 2022.

Hanson, Carol Carpenter. "Tracing John Wayne’s Iowa roots: Iconic actor lived in Winterset, Earlham, Des Moines, Keokuk and Brooklyn." Accessed January 5, 2022.

Stephan, Ed. "John Wayne." Internet Movie Database. Accessed January 5, 2022.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

All images via the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum