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Posts from the ‘history’ Category

Mill Tribute Blankets by Pendleton: Racine Woolen Mills of Racine, Wisconsin

In 2010, Pendleton Woolen Mills introduced our Tribute Series, paying homage to four of the American Mills that thrived during the Golden Age of Native American Trade blankets. Today, we will talk about Racine Woolen Mills, known for their intricate patterns. 

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In 1865, a Racine company began producing textiles under the name Blake & Company under the leadership of Lucien Blake and John Hart. In 1877, the company incorporated under the name of “Racine Woolen Mills—Blake & Company.” Racine Woolen Mills went on to become the premier producer and marketer of Native American Trade blankets.

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Racine was well-established by 1893. Records show employees of 150 skilled weavers and gross sales of $300K, which was an robust amount for the day. Racine’s fringed shawls were produced under the “Badger State” label. These earliest shawls are relatively subdued by today’s standards, mostly plain with an in intricately designed border. Photos of these vintage shawls show the superior drape of the fabric. They were extremely popular with Native American women.

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Native American women in Racine’s Ribbon-pattern shawls

Each of the companies in our tribute series has its own trademark specialty. Buell is known for faithful reproduction of Native American weaving patterns. Oregon City is famed for fanciful figural patterns and unexpected, riotous color. Racine Woolen Mills blankets are valued for unexpected, intense colors and intricate patterns. Diamonds, crescent moons, five-pointed stars, ribbon bows, compass roses, combs, waterbugs, pipes and feathers are woven with definition and clarity. The sheared finish of a vintage Racine blanket keeps the designs crisp and the hand smooth.

The famed Racine quality was maintained after production was taken over by another fine weaving mill, Shuler & Benninghofen, a mill that produced blankets for Racine until (approximately) 1915. Racine continued to merchandise and market trade blankets procured from different manufacturers until 1940 or so. They seem to have stopped offering wool trade blankets after that, though they kept on as a wholesaler of other styles of woolen blankets and goods until 1951, when Racine Woolen Mills closed doors for good.

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Hidatsa Man by Edward Curtis

According to our friend Barry Friedman in his book Chasing Rainbows, “The last ‘genuine’ Racine blankets were made in the 1930s, when John Hart asked Paul Benninghofen to make one of the old patterns. It was a special favor, because by then Shuler & Benninghofen no longer produced trade blankets and Racine hadn’t contracted to have them made there or anywhere else in years.” The Racine blankets beloved by collectors come from the golden years of 1893-1912, and the Pendleton Mill Tribute blankets are re-creations of blankets from that period.

Racine #7 (available here): Muted colors were rare for Racine. The original blanket was woven for Racine Woolen Mills by Shuler & Benninghofen.

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Racine #6 (available here): Tomahawks, Bows and Arrows

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Racine #5 (retired): Banded Diamonds

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Racine #4 (retired): A dizzying array of color, sawteeth and stars

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Racine#3 (retired, with a limited number available here): Crescent Moon and Shining Star

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Racine #2 (retired): Pipe and Feather – the other elements are two Navajo weaving combs, and an arrow under the pipe

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Racine #1 (retired): Class Y in the Racine catalog, “Yuma” in the Shuler & Benninghofen catalog

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Racine Woolen Mills has an interesting intersection with Pendleton’s history. In 1905, Racine Woolen Mills was furiously negotiating to buy a struggling mill in Pendleton, Oregon, with plans to increase trade blanket production by 300 percent. Those negotiations proved fruitless, and the Pendleton mill went silent in 1908. In 1909, Fanny Kay Bishop organized her three sons to take it over and transform it into the company we know today.

If Racine Woolen Mills had purchased the mill, who knows what the Pendleton story would have been?

 

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The Wild Splendor of Oregon’s Crater Lake

On a clear day, the waters of Crater Lake are a shade of blue seen nowhere else. The depth of the lake, the purity of the water and the clean Oregon skies are the source of this unearthly hue. You really have to see it to believe it.

Crater Lake sits almost two thousand feet above sea level and is the deepest lake in the United States. As the National Park Service says, “Crater Lake has inspired people for thousands of years. No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It is a place of immeasurable beauty, and an outstanding outdoor laboratory and classroom.” (source)

Crater Lake, Oregon

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Of all the beautiful Oregon locations seen in the movie “Wild,” it is Cheryl Strayed’s slow saunter across the backdrop of Crater Lake that elicits the strongest audience response.

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It’s really that blue-and that’s the blue we chose for our Crater Lake National Park Series blanket.

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Crater Lake formed in the collapsed caldera of Mount Mazama, an ancient volcano. It is not fed by any streams or tributaries. The 4.6 trillion gallons of water contained in the lake accumulated through 7,000 years of precipitation, and some sub-surface seepage. This accounts for the water’s unbelievable purity.

The lake contains two islands. Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone formed by continued eruptions after the collapse of Mount Mazama. Its picturesque name comes from an earlier time in Crater Lake’s history, when the lake was named the “Witches Cauldron.” That name didn’t stay, but Wizard Island’s name did remain. Crater Lake’s other island, Phantom Ship, is a rock formation that looks exactly like a pirate ship sailing on the lake’s surface if you tilt your head and squint a little, and believe.

You don’t have to hike to enjoy this park’s best view. It’s possible to drive right to the Crater Lake lodge and visit a patio that stretches across the back of the lodge. There you can sit in one of the rocking chairs, order a huckleberry martini and toast the best view in Oregon. And if you’re ready for outdoor action, Crater Lake offers hikes, bike rides around the rim, hikes and boat tours that include a stop on Wizard Island. If you do travel by boat, keep your eye out for “The Old Man of the Lake,” a hemlock stump that has been bobbing around the lake for over a century.

The Klamath and Modoc tribes consider Crater Lake a sacred site, and have myths about its creation. Because of the scientific accuracy of the Klamath myths, it’s believed that tribal members witnessed the creation of the lake and fashioned their sacred stories accordingly. You can read more here: Sacred legends of the Klamath   and here: Science and Myth, the creation of Crater Lake.

It was a cloudy day when Kyle Houck, our #pendle10park explorer, took the Crater Lake blanket home for a visit. As you can see from Kyle’s shots, the park is still beautiful.

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#pendle10parks photos by: @KYLEHOUCK

Find out more about our Crater Lake blanket here: Crater Lake

Share a Crater Lake/Rogue River adventure with Greg Hatten: WoodenBoat Adventures

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Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear

The Teddy bear is a childhood constant; a quiet and cuddly friend to children for generations. But do you know where the Teddy bear got his name?

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President Theodore Roosevelt was invited to go bear hunting in November of 1902 by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. The hunting party hunted in the woods near Onward, Mississippi. When the President, a noted sportsman and accomplished big game hunter, had not located a bear, the hunting party decided to take matters in hand. His assistants cornered a black bear and tied it to a tree. All President Roosevelt had to do was fire a single shot to bag his trophy. But Teddy Roosevelt was offended by the lack of sportsmanship in this enterprise, and refused to take his shot.

Of course, the public loved this story. Teddy Roosevelt was a dashing figure, well known for his years as a Rough Rider. His romantic writings about the American wilderness helped to inspire the creation of our system of National Parks. His steadfast insistence on sportsmanship on the hunt inspired newspaper articles and a famous cartoon by cartoonist Clifford Berryman.

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According to history.com, what came next was a national toy craze:

Inspired by the cartoon, Brooklyn, New York, shopkeeper Morris Michtom and his wife Rose made a stuffed fabric bear in honor of America’s 26th commander-in-chief and displayed it with a sign, “Teddy’s bear,” in their store window, where it attracted interest from customers. After reportedly writing to the president and getting permission to use his name for their creation, the Michtoms went on to start a successful company that manufactured teddy bears and other toys.

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Meanwhile, around the same time the Michtoms developed their bear, a German company founded in 1880 by seamstress Margarete Steiff to produce soft toy animals began making a plush bruin of its own. Designed in 1902 by Steiff’s nephew Richard, who modeled it after real-life bears he’d sketched at the zoo, the mohair bear with jointed limbs debuted at a German toy fair in 1903. ()

“Teddy’s bears” were an immediate and enduring hit with children.

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They even inspired their own book series about the Roosevelt Bears! Author Seymour Eaton expounded on the international adventures of two bear cubs. Read about these books and see their absolutely charming illustrations here: Roosevelt Bears

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Teddy bears remain one of the world’s favorite toys, and here at Pendleton, we have our own favorites. Our Teddys are National Park Teddys, to honor the president and the parks he helped inspire. We have bears for Glacier, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone (a grizzly, of course), and Badlands parks.

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We love their park-stripe hats and muffflers, their huggable tummies, but most of all we love their floppy feet.

You can learn more about our bears here: Pendleton Teddy Bears

 

The Force Awakens! Pendleton and Star Wars

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Many of you, and some of us (at Pendleton) will be there at midnight tonight to see “The Force Awakens.” We thought it would be a great day to show you our Padawan blankets; the crib-sized versions of our full-size Star Wars collectors blankets.

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A New Hope Padawan Blanket

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The Empire Strikes Back Padawan

These are 32″ x 44″, with slightly modified designs that omit the easter eggs and “STAR WARS” logo that appears when you join together the four large blankets. The Padawans are napped to be soft and fuzzy. Because the Dark Lord needs a little soft and fuzzy, doesn’t he?

More information on the original designs below.

A New Hope    The Empire Strikes Back     Return of the Jedi    The Force Awakens

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The Ultimate Collector’s Set

1977 changed everything…and so will 2015!

When Pendleton meets Packard: A Disneyland Mystery

When Ty Bennet sent us photos of this beauty, we were impressed by this pristine Packard.

37900_416426407652_1893938_n1948 Packard station wagon.

According to Ty, we were looking at the following: 1948 Packard 8 Station Wagon Woodie Woody. Restored. Excellent condition. Lexington Green Metallic paint. Powerful and Smooth Straight 8 engine.

38313_416426457652_2903728_nHere’s a photo of that engine…

39723_416427602652_4113015_nMore from Ty: High Speed rear gear for modern touring. Plaid “Highlander” style interior. Real Wood Northern Birch rails over maple panels. Burl wood grained dashboard and door trim. Radial wide white wall tires. Ready for Summer touring.

37576_416426502652_5618075_nThis car has beautiful lines and trim.

38494_416426532652_7274108_nBut here’s a little more visual information on the interior of the car.  Does that upholstery fabric ring a bell? Door panels, too.

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Rear interior–even the ashtray is covered in the tartan.

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Yes, that is very definitely a Pendleton fabric, a traditional tartan. And look at the label!

39254_416425447652_5025608_nWe’ve worked with truck and car companies on co-branded interiors in the past, but we don’t have any information on this particular car. This car is labeled with the special Disney label we used on clothing in our Frontierland Dry Goods Emporium. We don’t know if the fabric was purchased there, or if the car was upholstered as part of a display. Perhaps some fans might have information or memories?

Our president, Mort Bishop III, explained, “I am not aware of this project forWalt Disney. However with our Pendleton exhibit and store in Frontierland we worked closely with Walt Disney…Pendleton was one of the three original lessees in the park when it opened. It would not surprise me if we provided fabric to him for a Packard.”

37468_416425662652_7789419_nBirch over Maple wood panels and dash; it’s made like a boat inside–what craftsmanship.

39177_416426647652_2554072_nTy sold the car to a private party at auction. Someone has a nice touring vehicle for all seasons.

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Jackson Sundown, the Bishop Brothers, and the Pendleton Round-Up. Let’er Buck!

Note: In honor of the Pendleton Round-Up, we’re sharing an older post about Jackson Sundown, who is one of the great riders of the American West. It explains our company’s long and rich connection with the Pendleton Round-Up. And you might want to read our earlier post about an exhibit of Jackson Sundown’s personal effects, with photos of modern-day volunteers raising the actual teepee in the historic shot below: see it here.  Let’er Buck!

The Pendleton Round-up  starts this week—an amazing rodeo adventure in Pendleton, Oregon, celebrating its 102nd year. Our designers travel there for inspiration, entertainment, and to watch our westernwear in action on rodeo competitors and fans. Oregon Public Broadcasting has a video titled “Pendleton Round-Up: The Wild West Way”  that’s well worth watching, and Cowboys & Indians magazine has some great background.

Among the historic images, you’ll see this shot:

This is Roy Bishop and Jackson Sundown posing at the Pendleton Round-Up. This image actually made the fashion blogs in 2009, when recreations of Roy Bishop’s fringed coat and Jackson Sundown’s oval-print shirt were part of Pendleton’s Centennial offering. But the story is about more than fashion history. This photo is about rodeo history.

The association of Pendleton Woolen Mills and the Round-Up goes back to the very beginning, when along with his brothers Clarence and Chauncey, Roy Bishop established the first mill at its current location in Pendleton, Oregon. The brothers combined their production and retailing expertise with an idled mill, a river, and fine fleece provided by local wool growers. Back then, PWM was a blanket company. Our first and most valued customer was the Native American, and the Bishop brothers worked hard to fill the strong demand (we still sell approximately 60% of our blankets to Native customers every year).

The Bishops were key to the conception of the first Round-Up. Rodeos are big business now, and they were big business then. It was an undertaking to get to a rodeo, especially for a working cowboy. The Round-Up needed something special to draw the crowd. It was unheard-of to include Native Americans to a Western rodeo, but Roy Bishop rode out to meet tribal leaders and invite their participation. He was politely received and quietly listened to, but he left without receiving a definite answer.

The rodeo’s starting date approached, and still he waited. On the morning before the rodeo began, Roy stepped out on the mill’s loading dock. In the distance, he had his answer when he saw the dust of the tribes as they made their way to the Indian campground. The cooperation between the Columbia Basin tribes and the Pendleton Round-up, unique among modern rodeos, continues to this day.

So what about the other person in this photo?

Jackson Sundown was born Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn in 1863 in Montana. During the Nez Perce war of 1877, he rode with Sitting Bull, retreating to Canada with the Sioux. He eventually returned to Washington, then to Idaho, then to Montana, supporting himself by working, breeding and breaking horses.

In 1912, at the age of 49, Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn began entering rodeo events in Canada and Idaho using the name Jackson Sundown. The crowds went wild when he tied his braids under his chin, lifted his sombrero and started the ride, his wooly angora chaps streaming.

He took so many prizes that other riders refused to challenge him. Stock owners pulled their animals when they saw his name on the list of possible riders, as after Jackson Sundown rode a horse, it might be so thoroughly mastered that it never bucked again.

Jackson Sundown entered the Pendleton Round-Up several times, placing but not winning. In 1915, in a controversial decision, he placed third and decided to retire from rodeo riding. But a sculptor named Alexander Phimister Proctor prevailed upon him to try one more time. In 1916, he did. Jackson Sundown came out of the gate on a horse named Angel, and the spectacular ride that followed has become legendary. The crowd went wild, and threatened to take down the grandstands board-by-board if Sundown wasn’t awarded the title he had so clearly won.

At twice the age of his competitors, the lanky six-foot tall Indian not only won the bucking championship, but the all-around title as well. He lived out his life on the Nez Perce reservation, raising horses and passing on his skills until his death in 1923. He’s been inducted into more rodeo and athletic halls-of-fame than we have space to list. He is a key character in a novel by Ken Kesey, The Last Go ‘Round.

Jackson Sundown is also featured in a terrific documentary called “American Cowboys.” This is a detailed look at the frustration of competitive riding for contestants of color. It was playing at the Tamastslikt Cultural Center just outside Pendleton, which is a fantastic place to learn about the history of the tribes of the Columbia Basin. It may or may not be part of their permanent installation, but this documentary includes footage of Sundown riding. Sadly, photographs of him riding rare; this may be the only one.

It is sad that a man who possessed such incredible skills in horsemanship isn’t shown during more of his competitive rides. But there are plenty of images of Jackson Sundown showing his deep understanding of a wardrobe’s role in a great performance. Chaps, hat, and that aloof expression. Jackson Sundown had it all, a fact well-illustrated by this logo for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Yes, that is Jackson Sundown.

So today, in honor of the Pendleton Round-Up, please enjoy these images of Jackson Sundown; Nez Perce warrior, compatriot of Sitting Bull, bronc rider, horse breeder, main character, documentary subject, fashion blog icon, Round-Up Champion and Inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

And a true proponent of individual style.

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Every Blanket Tells a Story: Louise Kelly

We first saw this blanket when Judy Goodman of Joseph, Oregon, contacted us for information on a blanket that belonged to her grandmother, Louise Kelly.

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The label identified it as a Rainier National Park blanket, but it’s so very different from our current version that we knew it was a special treasure.

Label_web We reached out to our National Park blanket expert, Fred Coldwell of Denver, Colorado. He identified the blanket right away. Here is his information:

The blanket is Pendleton’s very first Rainier National Park Blanket, No. 18, introduced on February 1, 1928. It had overstitched ends and a border design of flowers (lupine, paint brush and daisy) on one of three color bodies (white, light blue or moss green).

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These three flowers are found on Mt. Rainier in these subspecies: Broadleaf Lupine, Dwarf Lupine, Magenta Paintbrush, Scarlet Paintbrush, Subalpine Daisy. They can be seen here under Subalpine flowers in the Blue/Purple Pink/Red folders.

Back to the blanket. Four points (indicating the 66″ x 80″ size) were sewn into the lower left hand corner of the blanket’s large center field. This blanket came in only one size, 66″ x 80″, and was made with virgin wool on a cotton warp. It was wrapped in paper for packing. The wholesale price was $9.00 in 1928 and 1929. This Rainier Park Blanket is listed in Pendleton’s February 1, 1928 Wholesale Price List No. 6 and in the March 1, 1929 Wholesale Price List No. 8. But it had disappeared by 1934-35 when retail Catalog No. 11 was issued. I have no information about it from late 1929 to 1933, but I imagine it was a casualty of the early 1930s Depression.

Ms. Goodman was thrilled to have Fred Coldwell’s information. When we asked her if she’d like to share the blanket on our blog, it spurred her to do some serious family research; not just the names, dates, family tree kind of research, but research into her grandmother’s story. How did she come to the Northwest? How did this blanket tie into her life? The story of a blanket is also the story of the person who owned it. We would like to share Louise’s story, as told by her granddaughter.

My grandmother, Louise Kelly, was born on October 26, 1906 to John and Mattie (Landreth) Evans in Taberville, MO. Like many families of this era, Louise had eleven brothers and sisters. She rode a horse to school and purchased school supplies by exchanging farm eggs at the store. Once she’d finished eighth grade, Louise (at age 12 or 13) had to stay home to care for all the other small children in the family. Some of her brothers were never able to attend school. They stayed to work the farm with their father.

Louise married at the age of 24 and gave birth to her first child (my mother, Wilma) in 1931. My uncle was born a few years later. The family farmed, raised chickens, made their own blankets and clothes, and preserved fruits and vegetables. They managed to survive the Great Depression and were looking at a new future when this photo was taken of Louise in 1941 near Mt. Rainier on a trip to Yakima, Washington.

(Louise Kelly, 1941)

(Louise Kelly, 1941)

The family was taken with the West. Eight years later, the family finally saved enough to move there, settling in Zillah, Washington. My mother was a senior in high school when her father suffered a heart attack. My grandmother Louise found herself widowed with two teenagers. She worked two jobs to support her family, running her own morning café and cooking at another restaurant at night. 

(Louise [left] and her daughter Wilma [right] in front of Louise’s café [obviously the dog didn’t want to be in the photo])

(Louise [left] and her daughter Wilma [right] in front of Louise’s café [obviously the dog didn’t want to be in the photo])

Percy Kelly was a business man who enjoyed breakfast every morning at my grandmother’s café. He was a potato dealer – buying potatoes right from the field, sorting and bagging them in a warehouse in Toppenish, WA, then shipping by rail using “ice” stops along the way to keep the potatoes cool. He had also lost his wife in 1949. Percy asked Louise out on a date, but she was too busy with work and family. One day at the café, Percy took off his suit jacket, rolled up his shirt sleeves and started to wash dishes with Louise just so he could spend time with her. That was the beginning of their love story, and how this beautiful Pendleton Mt. Rainier Blanket came into my possession.

Percy (who I knew as Papa) and Louise were married in 1951 and moved to the Columbia Basin in 1952. They grew potatoes near Winchester, Washington. Papa was a member of the Washington State Potato Commission. They built their own potato storage and started to ship potatoes. This was the beginning of their potato empire, and their life together. Percy had two daughters who were still in high school at the time. My mother started college and her brother enlisted in the Army.

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Louise always loved Mt. Rainier. This photo of the mountain and a CCC camp at its base hung on the wall of her home for most of her life.

It is possible that the Mt. Rainier Park blanket was a wedding gift to Louise and Percy, but more than likely it was a wedding gift for Percy and his first wife in 1929. The blanket remained in the family all of these years. It was often stored in a cedar trunk that came into my possession in 1999 when Louise passed away. “Percy loved beautiful handcrafted things,” his daughter, Jeanette Burk, recently told me in a phone conversation. “He liked well-crafted items made of leather and wool, and he definitely would have wanted this blanket for his family.”

So that is the story of one National Park Blanket and the person (and family) it belonged to.  The blanket spends most of its time displayed in Judy’s Oregon home. Currently, the blanket  is on display at Wallowology (www.wallowology.org) where Judy works. Above it is Louise’s Pendleton 49’er jacket, a beauty that appears to have all its original shell buttons—a rarity. You can pay both of these treasures a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

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Our thanks to Judy for sharing her grandmother’s story and her photos.

Disneyland and Pendleton Woolen Mills: Happy Birthday, Pardner.

Disneyland is 60 years old this year! Who can believe it?

The history of Pendleton Woolen Mills and Disney began when Walt Disney extended a personal invitation to be retail partners in the Park. Mr. Disney was a fan of Pendleton’s “fleece to fashion” vertical manufacturing, which at the time included ownership of our own flocks and scouring facilities. He saw a fit for us in Frontierland as part of his vision of America’s Wild West.

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frontierland2We were more than excited to be part of Disneyland. Pendleton established a ‘Dry Goods Emporium’ that opened for business right along with the rest of the park on July 17, 1955.

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photo courtesy of daveland.web.com

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The store was a rustic wonderland of Pendleton’s woolen products, along with belts, wallets, hats, and other Western-themed merchandise.

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Much of the clothing sold in Disneyland had its own special labeling that featured the spires of Cinderella’s castle.

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It seems that a new plaid Pendleton shirt was part of the vacation for many young men in America, and the store set a record for sales of Turnabout reversible skirts in the late fifties. Our Disneyland store was phenomenally successful. We had a unique way to share the bounty of the Disneyland store’s sales. Visitors were asked for their postal codes, and credit for the purchase was awarded to their nearest Pendleton store back home.

It’s said that the family that plays together stays together. Well, what does a family who plaids together do? Whatever it is, this family from 1963 is doing it in Pendleton style.

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Holiday_Magazine_Oct_65_Pendleton_11963 was the year that Clarence M. Bishop took his own Gold Ticket tour of Disneyland. The Bishop family is a hardworking bunch, and when they vacation, they tend to gravitate towards places where they can ride or fish. But Mr. Bishop had a great time in Anaheim, according to all reports.

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pendispc1(Please note, these are models, not members of the Bishop family, no matter what the ad campaign says)

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Photo courtesy of Regions Beyond

We’re glad that a trip to the old store remains a favorite memory of so many of Disneyland’s long-time guests. We have been asked, “What happened?” by Disney guests who remember our store with nostalgia. The partnership dissolved amicably when the Disneyland Resort shifted their merchandising focus to more Disney-oriented goods. The store closed in April of 1990. Today, the Bonanza Emporium does carry some Pendleton merchandise, as does Ramone’s House of Body Art.

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In our Heritage Hallway, you can find a framed letter from Walt Disney about the partnership, and a small bronze of Jiminy Cricket. The letter came to invite us to the official press and television premiere on July 17th, 1955.

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The bronze was a gift to us from Disney.

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Jiminy stands on a matchbox wearing a medallion that says, simply, “30.”

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The statue’s inscription reads: “PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS in commemoration and appreciation of 30 years of association with DISNEYLAND 1955-1985”

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We’re proud of our history with Disneyland, and want to say Happy 60th Birthday to our friends there, and thanks to all the guests who made us part of their visit.

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.