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Posts from the ‘history’ Category

Mill Tribute Blankets by Pendleton: The Buell Manufacturing Company of St. Joseph, Missouri

In 2010, Pendleton Woolen Mills introduced our Tribute Series, paying homage to the American mills that thrived during the Golden Age of Native American Trade blankets. 

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In the early part of the 20th century, Pendleton Woolen Mills was one of five major mills weaving Trade blankets. The Buell Manufacturing Company of St. Joseph, Missouri, incorporated in 1877. St. Joseph was the gateway to a booming Wild West, thanks to homesteading and the Gold Rush. The Buell mill, operated by Norman Buell, his son George, and another partner named John Lemon, was well-run and successful.

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According to the county records of 1904, the Buell Manufacturing employed 175 workers and used more than a million pounds of wool a year. Buell products were sold in every state of the Union (45, to be exact).  Buell products included far more than their Trade blankets. Their colorful designs were only a fraction of the products woven by Buell from 1877 to 1912. Since the Pendleton mill opened in 1909, we were only competitors for three seasons.

buellcoverAccording to our friend Barry Friedman in his book Chasing Rainbows, “The blankets produced by Buell Manufacturing are without question the truest copies of Navajo and Pueblo Indian designs.” The original Buell blanket designs were given tribal names in keeping with America’s romantic view of the west during those years. We’ve included the original names strictly for your information. Please keep in mind that the Buell designs often bore little-to-no resemblance to the weavings of that particular tribe.  Our re-weavings of these blankets are simply named for the original manufacturer, with the number of the blanket in the series.

Buell #6available here ) was originally called the “Choctaw” or the “Spider and Hawk” design.

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Buell #5 available here was called the “Winnebago.” Though Buell has a darker palette than many of the other mills producing blankets back in the day, this blanket is an eye-popper.

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Buell #4 (retired) was called the “Ojibwa.” Dale Chihuly has one of the originals in his incredible collection of Trade blankets. The banded design of diamonds, stripes, stars and that central sawtooth band is just gorgeous.

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Buell #3 (retired) features a rare pictorial element–bands of Thunderbirds. Buell blankets were generally without any type of representational figures. This banded pattern was known as the “Comanche.”

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Buell #2  (retired) is called the “Zuni” pattern in the Buell catalog, but is actually a copy of a Hopi manta according to Barry Friedman (who knows pretty much everything there is to know about Trade blankets).

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Buell #1 (retired) is named “Aztec” in the original Buell catalog. It was offered in at least four different color combinations. An example in this coloration is also part of the fabled Chihuly collection of Native American Trade blankets. This blanket was a bestseller in our first year of the Tribute series.

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Buell blankets are among the most rare and most sought after by collectors today. This mill actually accomplished a major commercial weaving innovation–the incorporation of a third color in a weaving line. This was beyond the capabilities of Pendleton Woolen Mills at the time, so we tip our hat to the Buell Manufacturing Company of St. Joseph, Missouri.

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Mill Tribute Blankets by Pendleton: Oregon City Woolen Mills

In 2010, Pendleton Woolen Mills introduced our Tribute Series, paying homage to the American mills that thrived during the Golden Age of Native American Trade blankets. 

tributelabels_2In the early part of the 20th century, Pendleton Woolen Mills was one of five major mills weaving Trade blankets. Oregon City Woolen Mills was perhaps our greatest competitor. Known for explosive neon colors and unique images, their banded robes are among some of the most dramatic designs produced during the heyday of the Trade blanket.

The mill sat at the base of the Oregon City Falls (the “Niagra of the West”) on the Willamette River, just down the water from Portland. This busy location held the woolen mill, a grist mill, printing presses, and other industries drawn to the site by easy river access and the power of the Falls.

The mill was the largest in the West, employing hundreds of millworkers over 30 years of operation. It had a riotous history of workforce unrest, racial strife and community turmoil. It even burned to the ground once.

Perhaps the mill’s colorful history influenced its products, as this mill’s blankets are known for their dazzling color combinations and dizzying geometric patterns. We have recreated six blankets in our Mill Tribute series for Oregon City Woolen Mills. Currently available is Oregon City Woolen Mills Tribute #6, a swirling banded robe with arrowheads in Americana colors. This pattern debuted in 1914.

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Oregon City Woolen Mills Tribute #5 is also available. This framed robe illustrates the prevailing vision of the American West in the early part of the last century: roping, wrangling, bronc busting and pony racing, along with a peaceful Indian village. The original was a children’s blanket.

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Retired blankets in the series include Oregon City #4, a coral-red and turquoise six element robe. This popular design was woven in color combinations that ranged from the garish to the sublime throughout the 1920s and 30s. We think our choice is sublime.

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Oregon City #3 is a banded pictorial robe with eye-dazzling borders and a totem pole flanked by a pair of ravens. This pattern was woven for the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909, and rewoven in many different color combinations until the 1930s.

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Oregon City #2 is a uniquely colored six element robe in teal and purple. Known as the Dragonfly pattern, our recreation of this robe was a best-seller.

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Oregon City #1 is another pictorial robe known as the Happy Hunting Ground. A hunter overlooks a bounty of fish, fowl and animals, with some amphibians, dragonflies, bees, stars and reptiles thrown in for good measure. The tools of the hunt also decorate the blanket.

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Oregon City Woolen Mills went out of business in 1932 during the Great Depression. Today, plans are afoot to restore its original site, with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project working to restore industry and public access to this beautiful area.

And if you’re wondering, Pendleton plans another Oregon City Woolen Mills tribute blanket in 2016.

The Mohawks Who Built Manhattan and the Pendleton Skywalkers Blanket

jacquard_skywalkers_montage The Skywalkers blanket design (available now) was inspired by Art Deco design elements of some of New York City’s iconic skyscrapers such as the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. It is a salute to the skilled Native American and First Nations iron workers who built some of the city’s famous landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge and the new One World Trade Center.

To see the faces of these seemingly fearless men, please visit this incredible collection of tintypes by Melissa Cacciola.

You can read the entire story below, which is a repost from Whitewolfpack.com and used with their permission. The original text of the article is written by Renee Valois. The following photographs are copyright © 2012 David Grant Noble.

For generations, Mohawk Indians have left their reservations in or near Canada to raise skyscrapers in the heart of New York City.

High atop a New York University building one bright September day, Mohawk ironworkers were just setting some steel when the head of the crew heard a big rumble to the north. Suddenly a jet roared overhead, barely 50 feet from the crane they were using to set the steel girders in place. “I looked up and I could see the rivets on the plane, I could read the serial numbers it was so low, and I thought ‘What is he doing going down Broadway?’” recalls the crew’s leader, Dick Oddo. Crew members watched in disbelief as the plane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, just 10 blocks away.

At first, Oddo says, he thought it was pilot error. He got on his cell phone to report the crash to Mike Swamp, business manager of Ironworkers Local 440, but he began to wonder. Then another jet flew by. “When the plane hit the second tower, I knew it was all planned.”

Like Oddo, most of the Mohawk crews working in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, headed immediately to the site of the disaster. Because many of them had worked on the 110-story World Trade Center some three decades earlier, they were familiar with the buildings and hoped they could help people escape faster. Fires were raging in the towers and the ironworkers knew that steel weakens and eventually melts under extreme heat. They helped survivors escape from the threatened buildings, and when the towers came crashing down, they joined in the search for victims.

In the months that followed, many Mohawk ironworkers volunteered to help in the cleanup. There was a terrible irony in dismantling what they had helped to erect: Hundreds of Mohawks had worked on the World Trade Center from 1966 to 1974. The last girder was signed by Mohawk ironworkers, in keeping with ironworking tradition.

Walking the iron

Mohawks have been building skyscrapers for six generations. The first workers came from the Kahn­awake Reservation near Montreal, where in 1886 the Canadian Pacific Railroad sought to construct a cantilever bridge across the St. Lawrence River, landing on reservation property. In exchange for use of the Mohawks’ land, the railroad and its contractor, the Dominion Bridge Co., agreed to employ tribesmen during construction.

The builders had intended to use the Indians as laborers to unload supplies, but that didn’t satisfy the Mohawks. Members of the tribe would go out on the bridge during construction every chance they got, according to an unnamed Dominion Bridge Co. official quoted in a 1949 New Yorker article by Joseph Mitchell (“The Mohawks in High Steel,” later collected in the 1960 book Apologies to the Iroquois, by Edmund Wilson). “It was quite impossible to keep them off,” the Dominion official said.

The official also claimed the Indians demonstrated no fear of heights. If they weren’t watched, he said, “they would climb up and onto the spans and walk around up there as cool and collected as the toughest of our riveters, most of whom at that period were old sailing-ship men especially picked for their experience in working aloft.”

Impressive perhaps, but Kahn­awake ironworker Don Angus explains that his ancestors back then were just teenagers daring each other to climb the 150-foot structure and “walk the iron.” Company workers tried to chase them off the bridge, Angus says. “I know that for a fact. They were getting in the way.”

The Indians were especially interested in riveting, one of the most dangerous jobs in construction and, then as now, one of the highest paid. Few men wanted to do it; fewer could do it well, and in good construction years there were sometimes too few riveters to meet construction demand, according to the New Yorker article. So the company decided to train a few of the persistent Mohawks. “It turned out that putting riveting tools in their hands was like putting ham with eggs,” the Dominion official declared. “In other words, they were natural-born bridge-men.” According to company lore, 12 young men—enough for three riveting gangs—were thus trained.

After the Canadian Pacific Bridge was completed, the young Mohawk ironworkers moved on to work on the Soo Bridge, which spanned the St. Mary’s River connecting Sault Ste. Marie, On­tario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Each riveting gang brought an apprentice from Kahn­awake to learn the trade on the job. When the first apprentice was trained, a new one came up from the reservation, and by 1907 more than 70 skilled structural ironworkers from the reservation were working on bridges.

Then tragedy struck. American structural engineer Theodore Cooper had designed the Quebec Bridge, a cantilevered truss bridge that would extend 3,220 feet across the St. Lawrence River above Quebec City. Because the Quebec Bridge Co. was strapped for cash, the company was eager to accept his design, which specified far less steel than was typical for a bridge of that size.

As the bridge grew, disturbing bends in the structure were explained away by Cooper and John Deans, chief engineer of Phoenix Bridge, the company building the bridge, as damage probably caused offsite before the beams were set in place. No one wanted to admit that the expensive bridge appeared increasingly unable to bear its own weight.

On Aug. 29, 1907, the bridge collapsed. Of the 75 men who died, 33 were Mohawks—about half of the tribe’s high-steel workers. But the tragedy didn’t turn Mohawks away from ironworking. According to an elderly Mohawk quoted in the 1949 New Yorker article, “It made high steel much more interesting to them. It made them take pride in themselves that they could do such dangerous work. After the disaster . . . they all wanted to go into high steel.” Less than 10 years later, the American Board of Indian Commissioners claimed that 587 of the 651 men in the tribe now belonged to the structural steel union.

But to ensure that so many tribesmen were never again killed in one accident, the Mohawk women insisted that the men split into smaller groups to work on a variety of building projects. That’s when they began booming out—tribal slang for scattering to find high-steel work away from home, in New York City and other distant places.

Gangs of New York

 

Although Mohawks had worked in New York City as early as 1901, it wasn’t until the 1920s that they came in large numbers, working in tight-knit four-man gangs to feed the demand for workers during a massive building boom, later stoked by Depression-era public works and then post-World War II prosperity. They came eventually not only from Kahnawake, but from other reservations as well, including Akwesasne (or Akwasasne) in upstate New York, near Canada.

Mohawk high-steel men worked on virtually every big construction project in New York City: the Empire State Building, the RCA Building, the Daily News Building, the Bank of Manhattan Building, the Chrysler Building, the United Nations, and Madison Square Garden. They also continued to build bridges, including the George Washington Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, the Hell’s Gate Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, and many more.

During the heady boom times of the first half of the 20th century, construction of steel structures required three types of work crews: raising gangs, fitting-up gangs, and riveting gangs.

The steel columns, beams, and girders arrived at the construction site already cut to size with holes for rivets, and code marks indicated where each was to be placed. The raising gang used a crane to lift the steel pieces and set them in place, loosely joining them with a few temporary bolts. The fitting-up gang tightened the pieces, ensuring that they were plumb, and inserted more temporary bolts. Then it was time for the four-man riveting gangs, where the Mohawks excelled. Because of the dangerous nature of the job, riveters preferred to work with partners they trusted; for Mohawks, this meant relatives and fellow tribesmen.

In the riveting gang, the heater fired the rivets in a portable, coal-burning forge until they were red-hot. With tongs he then tossed a rivet to the sticker-in, who caught it in a metal can as he stood with the other gang members on narrow scaffolding beside the steel. The bucker-up re­moved one of the temporary bolts and the sticker-in then shoved the hot rivet into the empty hole. The bucker-up braced the rivet with a dolly bar while the riveter used a pneumatic hammer to turn the hot and malleable stem of the rivet into a permanent head, securing the steel. The men took turns at the four tasks, making sure to give the riveter a regular break from his bone-jarring job.

Though ironworking technology has improved over the years, ironworkers still die on the job at a rate of 35 to 50 fatalities each year—75 percent of them from falls. Akwe­sasne ironworker Oddo lost his grandfather to a fatal fall from the high steel; his father died on his 25th anniversary in ironworking, driving home from a construction site. Many graves of fallen steelworkers at Kahnawake are marked by crosses made of steel girders.

The pay continues to bring the Mohawks back: Ironworkers today earn about $35 an hour plus benefits, which in busy times yields $65,000 to $70,000 a year.

The highs and lows of steel

 

In 1927 a federal court judge, citing the 150-year-old Jay Treaty, ruled that the Mohawks could pass freely between Canada and the United States since their territory had included portions of both nations. But because the drive from New York City to Kahnawake took almost 12 hours, many of the men instead moved their families to Brooklyn.

By 1960, around 800 Mohawks lived there. A Mohawk steelworker conclave had sprung up near Fourth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, with grocery stores stocking their favored o-nen-sto cornmeal and churches offering services in their native language.

But just 10 years later, few Mo­hawks remained. The new Adiron­dack Northway had halved the time it took to drive between New York and Kahnawake, and along with a growing pride in Indian culture—and rising crime in New York City—the shorter commute convinced most of the Mohawk ironworkers that it was time to go home.

Today most of the high-steel Mohawks still live in the city during the week, often sharing lodgings, and drive home to their families in Kahnawake and Akwesasne every weekend. But work has been slow since the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, and recent improvements in reinforced concrete have made it more attractive in some ways than steel: It goes up faster, requires less height for the same number of floors, is easier to modify during construction, and—most important in the wake of 9/11—it’s more resistant to heat.

On the other hand, steel is still considerably stronger than concrete, and steel-framed buildings are easier to modify to suit the needs of successive tenants. Because of that, many experts say that steel structures will never completely disappear.

That suits the Mohawks, who after six generations have made high steel a tribal tradition. “It makes you a better man,” says Swamp.

Renee Valois wrote about American mummies in the May/June issue of The History Channel Magazine.

A Mohawk Skywalking Tradition

Why would people with deep traditions centered in the earth embrace the trade of building skyscrapers in a city, high above it? Indeed, for decades anthropologists, construction company executives, and even the Mohawks themselves have debated why the tribesmen originally became skywalkers and why they remain high-steel workers today.

Probably the most controversial assertion originated with an official at the Dominion Bridge Co., which trained the first Mohawk ironworkers in 1886. He reportedly claimed that they had no fear of heights and even compared them to sure-footed mountain goats.

Others have suggested that the Indians’ tradition of walking one foot in front of the other on narrow logs over rivers suited them for walking the thin girders of a bridge or a skyscraper. This suggests that they have a natural balance and agility that is probably fictional: Mohawks don’t die in lower numbers than other ironworkers.

Anthropologist Morris Frielich suggests a cultural lure for ironworking: He compares high-steel Mohawks to warriors who risked death and returned with booty. Some anthropologists have also suggested that the risky work gave tribesmen a chance to test and display their courage.

While many Mohawk ironworkers admit to taking pride in doing a dangerous and important job, they dispute the idea that they’re not afraid of heights. Kahnawake ironworker Don Angus says Mohawks simply “have more respect for heights. You’ve got to watch it up there.”

On the other hand, some historians and some Mohawks cite the tribes’ ancient tradition of building longhouses as proof that building has always been in the blood. “It’s a hand-me-down trade, and it’s tradition,” says Angus. “My grandfather and his grandfather worked on iron.” Akwesasne ironworker Mike Swamp agrees: “My father was an ironworker. My son is an ironworker. It’s a family tradition.” SOURCE

Photos Copyright © 2012 David Grant Noble

Happy National Tartan Day! Here is the official Pendleton Hunting Tartan.

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In 1999, Pendleton Woolen Mills registered the official Pendleton Tartan with the Scottish Tartans Society. The tartan itself can be seen around the borders of the certificate.This tartan was created to commemorate Pendleton’s roots in the Pacific Northwest and the many generations of family that have overseen Pendleton’s business through the years. The official company tartan also salutes the British Isles origin of Pendleton’s weaving heritage, thanks to our founder, Thomas Kay.

So enjoy National Tartan Day. Wear your plaid with pride, and the next time you go out hunting Pendleton, consider wearing our tartan.

 

Gearing up for National Tartan Day!

Monday, April 6th is National Tartan Day. Some of our readers live, breathe, eat and sleep tartans. They are steeped in their clan histories. They know the difference between the ancient, dress, hunting and standard versions of their clan’s tartan. But other readers aren’t quite sure of what exactly makes a tartan a tartan. How does a tartan differ from any other plaid?

We say it best with the title of one of our most popular Pinterest boards: All tartans are plaids, but not all plaids are tartans. A tartan looks like a plaid, but it is so much more than that.  A tartan is a statement of identity. Tartans were originally regional designs, worn as “plaids,” pieces of fabric worn slung over the shoulder. Scotland’s warriors wore their plaids with pride to announce their family affiliations and political loyalties.

The Dress Act of 1746 was enacted to prohibit the wearing of the plaid, as part of colonial suppression of the Highlands: That from and after the first day of August, One thousand, seven hundred and forty-six, no man or boy within that part of Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as Officers and Soldiers in His Majesty’s Forces, shall, on any pretext whatever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes (that is to say) the Plaid, Philabeg, or little Kilt, Trowse, Shoulder-belts, or any part whatever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no tartan or party-coloured plaid of stuff shall be used for Great Coats or upper coats, and if any such person shall presume after the said first day of August, to wear or put on the aforesaid garment or any part of them, every such person so offending … For the first offence,shall be liable to be imprisoned for 6 months, and on the second offence, to be transported to any of His Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years.

That’s right, tartans were illegal; inflammatory and subversive.

In 1782, the Dress Act was repealed through the following proclamation: Listen Men. This is bringing before all the Sons of the Gael, the King and Parliament of Britain have forever abolished the act against the Highland Dress; which came down to the Clans from the beginning of the world to the year 1746. This must bring great joy to every Highland Heart. You are no longer bound down to the unmanly dress of the Lowlander. This is declaring to every Man, young and old, simple and gentle, that they may after this put on and wear the Truis, the Little Kilt, the Coat, and the Striped Hose, as also the Belted Plaid, without fear of the Law of the Realm or the spite of the enemies.

When the Dress Act was repealed in 1782, tartans were no longer worn as ordinary Highland dress. They were adopted as the official national dress of Scotland. Tartan grew from regional plaid to warrior garb to a badge of kinship.  These patterns are a visual illustration of the bond between personal and political freedom.

We’re not tartan experts at Pendleton, just fabric experts. When we we use these designs, we do it with respect for the history of the design we’re using. Our designers refer to rare reference books stored under archival conditions in our design department (please don’t ask to see them because they will not hold up to visitors, we have to say no). We also use modern tartans, like Canada’s Maple Leaf, and our own Pendleton Hunting Tartan, registered with the Scottish Tartan Society in 1999.

Tartans have been part of the Pendleton offering since our earliest days, beginning with our motor robes. We call them that because we originally wove them to cover the laps of motorists in the earliest days of the automobile.

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We’ve been making tartan shirts, Topsters, motoring caps and robes for men since the 1920s.

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Women have always been part of the Pendleton tartan action, as well.

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Today, tartans have taken fashion by storm, because these patterns are timeless, we return to them.

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If you’re wanting to add tartan, but you’re not sure where to start, try Blackwatch tartan, the tartan that designed to look black from a distance.

This is also known at the Government or 42nd tartan, developed to wear by the Black Watch, one of the early Highland Independent Companies. From a distance, the pattern reads black. It’s the stealth tartan. Around here, we call it Highland Camo, and though it’s one one of our perennial bestsellers, it’s a challenge to photograph for a catalog. But we do, as you cansee if you pay us a visit at pendleton-usa.com. We have tartan items galore for women, men, and home.

Remember, Monday is the big day.

Atlantic Video — The Gem of the Pacific Northwest: A Visual Ode to Oregon’s Seashore

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Click here to watch the video: The Gem of the Pacific Northwest: A Visual Ode to Oregon’s Seashore

We urge you–strongly urge you–to click the link to watch this beautiful video posted by the Atlantic. It captures the charm and the chill of our home state’s seaboard. It begins with the moon, which is appropriate for a region that is controlled by the tides, and sometimes starved for the sun. There is swimming (in shorts) and surfing (in wetsuits), sitting on the sand (in sweatshirts). There are hardworking fishermen who buy our shirts to stay warm. There are the contented cows of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, feeding happily on the dense grass that grows in air that’s lush with moisture. Waves, trees and rock formations form a natural backdrop for mankind’s contribution; piers, docks and buildings that fight a constant battle to stay painted and standing under the constant barrage of mist, rain, wind and salt. We think this video does a perfect job of conveying why everyone in Oregon doesn’t live at the coast, and why everyone in Oregon secretly thinks we might want to.

We hope you can see some of this Oregon in our Journey West and Mission Mill blankets, which commemorate the westward journey and first mill of our founder, Thomas Kay.

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Journey West is based on a piece of fine European weaving. The original blanket was discovered recently in a 19th-century European mill and included the designer’s notes and calculations, handwritten neatly along the sides. Our modern Pendleton designers viewed this historic work of art with reverence and used it as inspiration for our Journey West jacquard design. This design’s European origins echo the story of master weaver Thomas Kay, who began his training as a bobbin boy in English mills before coming to America to establish the family legacy that led to Pendleton Woolen Mills.  Mission Mill is named for the mill in Salem, Oregon, that was built (and rebuilt) by Thomas Kay after he made his way to Oregon. The Thomas Kay Woolen Mill turned out the first bolt of worsted wool west of the Mississippi. The old mill is a part of the historic Mission Mill Museum in Salem, Oregon. The Victorian colors and composition of the design are a nod to our founder’s English ancestry.

Oregon is a state of great natural beauty, climatic variability and bountiful resources. Thomas Kay must have understood that when he settled in Salem. Our state’s population continues to grow, but we want to warn those of you who are considering the Oregon coast as your destination: watch the video and pay attention. If you move here, you’re going to need blankets.

ROXY x Pendleton. We <3 This.

Kelia Moniz Roxy9

We have a new collaborative partner with Roxy, a premiere surf and beach brand for women.

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With several bikinis, two of which show strong 1940s influence, a coverup, towel, beach throw and more, it’s a perfect pairing of Pendleton’s surf roots and Roxy’s place in competitive surfing. You can see the entire collection here.

Our roots with surfing go back over fifty years, to the days when surfing was just coming to Southern California. The Majorettes were singing about Pendleton shirts, and The Beach Boys were The Pendletones, named for their wardrobe of Pendleton shirts.  Surfing, like everything else, has come a long way, especially in the area of women’s participation…and domination!

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We love seeing the collection at work on champion Lisa Andersen in this video:

Roxy: 25 Years of ROXY with Lisa Andersen

And this video gives a close look at the production of the wool part of the collection, with narration from our company’s president, Mort Bishop III.

Roxy and Pendleton: Two Surf Brands

Yes, we are pretty proud of this one. Go check it out!

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More Wool Fun Facts for January

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More fun facts about wool from another one of our old Education & Testing Department pieces:

Wool History:

Wool has been an integral part of human life and culture. One of its nicknames is the fiber of civilization.

The sheep industry began in central Asia over 10,000 years ago.

Wool-spinning began in 3500 BC. The first sheep were black; white sheep were a genetic exception that became highly prized because they produce dyeable fiber. Today, black sheep are the genetic exception.

In biblical times, wool was used to collect water; a fleece was left out overnight in the desert to draw dew, to be wrung out the next morning.

Wool fiber has overlapping scales. When heat, moisture and pressure are applied, the scales interlock into an irreversible tangle, as you may have discovered if you ever accidentally washed and dried your favorite wool sweater. This is called “felting.”

Wool was probably first used in felted form as lining for helmets and armor, padding for sandals, cushions for riding horses and camels, and as durable, portable housing for nomadic peoples.

For Asian nomads, wool was so important that in the fourth century, the Chinese called their territory “the land of felt.”

Today, felt is used in felt-tip pens, industrial applications, garments and heavy-duty wool blankets.

 

The Politics of Wool:

Spain recognized the commercial value of wool, making it a capital offense to export merino sheep.

England’s first great industry was wool. In the Middle Ages, it was the natrion’s largest export resource, with every European country relying on England for wool.

Germany eventually broke England’s hold on the wool market in 1765, when a Spanish king sent 92 rams and 128 ewes to Germany. By the turn of that century, Germany was flooding England’s wool market.

The Medici family of Florence, Italy built their wealth on the wool trade. Their banking industry allowed them the financial ease to offer patronage to artists like Dante, da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Australia’s economy is based on wool and sheep. The first sheep arrived in Australia in 1788 on an English ship full of convicts.

The American Revolution was in part ignited by a stiff tariff imposed to restrict American wool trade to England.

 

Wool Language:

“Dyed in the wool” means genuine and permanent.

To “fleece him” means to swindle him.

To “pull the wool over his eyes” is to fool him.

“Shoddy” is also a wool reference. The term meant re-used wool in Civil War times, and became associated with inferior workmanship.

A “spinster” was an unmarried woman who earned her keep by spinning wool.

A “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is a predator disguised with gentleness.

A “bellwether” is the lead sheep in a flock, and is used to note a change or new direction.

 

More fun facts about the properties of wool will be coming your way this month, because January is a wonderful month for staying warm, and wool does that so well. 

Congratulations to our Ducks for a Fantastic Season.

We are so proud of our Ducks. It’s been a fantastic season. And if you are wondering, yes, we had the blanket designed and the loom threaded in yellow and green. It would have been a wonderful moment to hit that switch and run those blankets, but there’s always next season.

As you know, we are a family owned and operated concern, with that family being the Bishops. The Bishop family goes way back with University of Oregon football. In 1894, the University of Oregon’s first football team took the field. They were known as the Webfoots back then, after a group of Massachusetts fishermen who played heroic roles in the American Revolutionary War. The U of O Webfoots didn’t score a touchdown that first season, but Oregonians are tough. They came back ready to play in 1895.

Below is a team photo of the 1895 team (the ball is proudly emblazoned with that player’s upcoming year of graduation). In both photos, he is second from the right in the lower row, wearing a turtleneck and one of the less outrageous haircuts sported by the players, is young Clarence Morton Bishop. And wouldn’t you know it, he is credited with making the first touchdown in the school’s collegiate football games in 1895.

1895_team_group

WEB_team-photo

Below is another archival item on the football career of “the first Mort” as he is referred to around here. Click for a larger view.

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And hey. GO DUCKS!

 

Pendleton Heritage Umatilla Wool — VIDEO

 

We are Pendleton Woolen Mills, and wool is what we do.  So here are some amazing wool facts for you, courtesy of us, from our trusty “Wool, A Natural” booklet, a little classroom staple for many years now.

Wool is a Miracle Fiber that Stands the Test of Time

Wool is a natural fiber, growing from the follicles of sheep. In a time of sustainability and environmental consciousness, this renewable resource remains longer-lasting and better looking than anything man-made. Even though advanced processing methods have made wool more versatile and easy care, man has not improved the miracle fiber itself. 

Wool is Naturally Resilient and Wrinkle Resistant

This is due to the ability of the fiber to spring back into shape after bending, creasing, or compression. Resilience gives wool its ability to hold a shape, resist wrinkles and withstand wear. This makes wool great for travel. It resists tearing because it’s flexible. Wool can bend back on itself 20,000 times without breaking (cotton only 3200 times before breaking/silk 1800 times/rayon only 75 times). Wool can be stretched or twisted and its cells return to their original position.

Wool is Naturally Comfortable

Wool fibers cannot be packed down. They spring back to shape keeping their open, porous nature. Wool provides the most warmth with the least weight. The air that is trapped inside (about 80% of wool fabric volume) makes wool an excellent insulator to keep the body at its normal temperature year round: warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool is the original outdoor “performance” fiber. 

Wool is Naturally Water and Stain Repellent

Wool repels light water, like a rain shower, because of the membrane on the outer scales. In very wet conditions, wool absorbs up to 30% of its own weight without feeling damp. And because of insulation ability, wool “breathes,” allowing the body’s natural moisture to pass through. The hairy surface of wool and its freedom from static make it the easiest of all fabrics to keep clean or to clean after soiling. 

Wool Maintains its Luster and Resists Fading

Wool has a permanent natural luster it never loses even after years of hard wear. It absorbs dyes until it is completely saturated so colors stay brilliant in spite of sunshine, perspiration and impurities in the atmosphere. No other fiber can be spun or woven into such a variety of weights, textures, finishes and colors. 

Wool is Naturally Flame Retardant

Unless it is in direct contact with flame, wool will extinguish itself. The denser the weave and the greater the fabric weight, the less likely it is even to char because of its smaller oxygen content. Fire departments and insurance companies recommend the use of wool blankets, rugs or coats to put out flames.

We will be bringing you more fun facts about wool this month, because January is an excellent month for keeping warm. 

 

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