A Sweetheart of a Pattern
In the twenties, thirties and forties, movie theaters were packed with fans of America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford (on the left in a fringed Harding shawl). She was the golden child of early American cinema, though her reputation took a big hit when she scandalously cut off her trademark golden braids. She didn’t just act. She produced, wrote, directed and marketed her films, and was one of the co-founders of United Artists. Sadly, the advent of talkies ended her acting career. Apparently, hearing Mary Pickford speak was something like reading the Tweets of your favorite celebrities. Sometimes, silence is golden.
Anita Page is on the right, in a coat that will look familiar to those of you who have watched The Portland Collection video. In that, designer Rachel Turk is slipping on a coat similar to Ms. Page’s.
Nothing would make us happier than to have Anita Page’s coat in our possession, so we ventured hopefully down to the archives to have a look:
Here is one of our oldest archival coats. It’s seen better days, but it’s beautifully made and still inspirational. The length and styling are close. The buttons differ, but buttons are usually replaced on vintage garments. But…Ms. Page’s coat had patch pockets, while ours has slash pockets. The sleeves on her coat are cuffed, while ours are hemmed. Oh well…we’re glad to have our own long Harding coat among the treasures in our archives.
Where did the Harding pattern come from?
In 1923, President Warren G. Harding and his wife visited the Pacific Northwest to dedicate part of the old Oregon Trail. A presidential visit this far west (in a non-campaign year) was an occasion. The area’s tribal dignitaries, chiefs of the Cayuse and Umatilla tribes, asked Pendleton Woolen Mills to create a unique blanket as a special gift to the First Lady, Florence Harding.
The weavers modified a Chief Joseph pattern and produced a fringed shawl in shades of white, tan, yellow and red. Mrs. Harding graciously accepted the blanket, and by all accounts was delighted with her so-very-western gift.
If you know your history, you know that Mrs. Harding didn’t always have the easiest time of it. We can only hope her warm Pendleton shawl offered a little comfort as the Harding presidency was rocked by scandal.
Despite that, what came to be known as the Harding pattern has been a steady part of the Pendleton line since the 1920s. We’ve used it in menswear, womenswear, accessories and blankets.
From season to season, we dip back into Harding history for accessories and apparel. In 2009, a vintage Pendleton Westernwear ad image sparked our designer’s inspiration.
We have no idea what these gentlemen are discussing so intently, or if they called each other the night before to coordinate their outfits. But the 2009 versions of these sweaters were solid hits. If you’re not sure whether you have the old version or the new, check the label. The newer versions will have the word “Pendleton” straight across, rather than at a slant. If “Pendleton” is at a slant, your sweater is vintage. And that is a seriously nice find.
Heritage is everywhere lately, with even the newest brands trying to connect with the past. At Pendleton Woolen Mills, we don’t have to borrow heritage, because we have our own. Thanks for sharing it with us for over a hundred years.
12 thoughts on “Harding: A Pattern Through Time”
I received this coat in the long version with leather collar for Valentine’s Day, I love it!
The Harding duster coat is worn by Anita Page, in my opinion
You are absolutely right. We have edited the post accordingly, and thank you!
Found another pic for your blog but unable to attach. Google “Claudia Dell” who wears a fine coat similar in pattern to Anita’s.
Claudia Dell wearing toboggan coat at
That’s a beautiful coat and a beautiful actress. We don’t know anything about her!
I have a limited edition Harding Pendleton long coat that I would like to sell. It was worn once. How can I have it appraised?
Pat, if you find out will you please let us know? We get that question all the time and of course we are not appraisers, so we can’t help. Good luck!
I have a fringed blanket just like the one given to Mrs. Harding. It was made between 1923 and 1930 according to the label. It’s in beautiful condition.
What a beautiful treasure. Enjoy it!
I am interested in buying a washable cardian womans sweater, the one on the cover of the new catalog.
Thanks for letting us know that you like this cardigan. It’s a beauty. You can purchase items at http://www.pendleton-usa.com or call the number on the back of your catalog to make an order over the phone.