The Pendleton archives hold a lot of history, some of it dating back to our founder’s opening of his own mill in 1863. Some of the most delightful history comes from our association with Disney, which stretches back to the opening of Disneyland in 1955. So here is a peek at these very special archival materials.
We were sent a personal invitation:
It’s hard to imagine a time when Disneyland wasn’t a household name worldwide, isn’t it? But we have another letter from our company president, Mort Bishop, referring to an “attached brochure” that explains the Disneyland park. And the letter makes it quite clear that the Pendleton location’s primary function was an exhibit, rather than a store.
So courtesy of photos in our archives, let us take you on a tour of the Pendleton Dry Goods Emporium, as it was called on opening day.
Excited visitors entered Frontierland for a taste of the Old West.
And there we were, complete with comfortable benches for whittlers (spittoons are notably absent).
We proudly displayed the World’s largest Champion Buckle in our window. This was before wrestling belts eclipsed western buckles, of course.
Inside the Store
Western wear was a staple of the store. And cowboys were shopping!
The history of Pendleton Woolen Mills and Disneyland
It all began when Walt Disney extended a personal invitation to be retail partners in the Park. Walt 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.
The Dry Goods Emporium
We 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.
The store was a rustic wonderland of Pendleton’s woolen products, along with belts, wallets, hats, and other Western-themed merchandise.
Much of the clothing sold in Disneyland had its own special labeling that featured the spires of Cinderella’s castle.
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 zipcodes, 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.
1963 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.
Today, and the Heritage Hallway
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.
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.
The bronze was a gift to us from Disney.
Jiminy stands on a matchbox wearing a medallion that says, simply, “30.”
The statue’s inscription reads: “PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS in commemoration and appreciation of 30 years of association with DISNEYLAND 1955-1985”
We’re proud of our history with Disneyland, and want to say thanks to all the guests who have made us part of their visit.
In 2010, Pendleton Woolen Mills introduced our Tribute Series, paying homage to four of the American Mills that thrived during the Golden Age of Trade blankets. Today, we will talk about Racine Woolen Mills, known for their intricate patterns.
Racine Woolen Mills
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 trade blankets, used in commerce with Native Americans.
The Racine Woolen Mill
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.
Native American women in Racine’s Ribbon-pattern shawls
Woolen Mill Specialties
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.
Hidatsa Man by Edward Curtis
According to our friendBarry 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.
The Tribute Series Blankets
Racine #8 (now retired): A banded Racine with deep colors and an excellent pattern–complex and beautiful.
Racine #7 (retired): Muted colors were rare for Racine. The original blanket was woven for Racine Woolen Mills by Shuler & Benninghofen.
Racine #6 (retired): Tomahawks, Bows and Arrows
Racine #5 (retired): Banded Diamonds
Racine #4 (retired): A dizzying array of color, sawteeth and stars
Racine#3 (retired): Crescent Moon and Shining Star
Racine #2 (retired): Pipe and Feather – the other elements are two Navajo weaving combs, and an arrow under the pipe
Racine #1 (retired): Class Y in the Racine catalog, “Yuma” in the Shuler & Benninghofen catalog
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?
Thursday, 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?
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. If you’re not a history buff, but you watch Outlander, you already know this.
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.
Pendleton and Tartan
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.
We’ve been making tartan shirts, Topsters, motoring caps and robes for men since the 1920s. Women have always been part of the Pendleton tartan action, as well. Today, tartans have taken fashion by storm, because these patterns are timeless, we return to them.
If you’re wanting to add tartan, but you’re not sure where to start, try Black Watch tartan, the tartan designed to look black from a distance (pictured is a vintage Pendleton shirt).
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 of our perennial bestsellers, it’s a challenge to photograph for a catalog. But we do, as you can see if you pay us a visit at pendleton-usa.com. We have tartan items galore for women, men, and home.
We hope your National Tartan Day is a good one, and remember: Wear Your Plaid With Pride.
The last mill in our series of blankets paying tribute to the Golden Age of the Trade blanket is the J. Capps and Sons Woolen Mill of Jacksonville, Illinois.
Our friend Barry Friedman, the foremost historian and venerable scholar of Trade blankets, has concluded that the very first blankets manufactured for the Native trade were manufactured by J. Capps and Sons in 1892. Barry has come to this conclusion through painstaking research that only a truly obsessed person would perform, so we trust his findings.
The J. Capps & Sons Woolen Mill in 1865
J Capps History
Joseph Capps arrived in Jacksonville, Illinois in 1839, only 21 years after Illinois became a state. He opened a wool-carding business, to which he would add spinning machines, looms and other weaving machines to become a fully operational weaving mill. As his business grew, so did his family; sons Stephen, William and Joseph would become partners in the firm, and carried on the business after Joseph’s death in 1872.
The Capps & Sons mill produced plain bed blankets, men’s suitings and other woolen goods throughout its years of operation. They also produced blanket overcoats.
Production of the Trade blanket ceased in 1917, when the mill’s production was diverted to the needs of WWI.
The first sales records of trade blankets appears in Capps’ business records in 1892. In 1893, the blankets are first mentioned in their marketing materials. The company apparently operated under three names: J. Capps & Sons, Ltd., the Jacksonville Woolen Mills, the American Indian Blanket Mills. To be clear, at no time were Native Americans involved in the design or weaving of these blankets. The patterns were mostly designed by Portuguese weavers who worked at the mill.
The Tribute Series
For our Mill Tribute series, we reproduced seven J. Capps & Sons, Ltd. designs. Capps designs remain much the same through their decades of production, and they produced surprisingly few patterns over that time. The designs make little use of the curvilinear abilities of the jacquard loom, keeping to “straight-line” patterns. To quote Barry: “With no other company that produced…blankets over so long a time do we see the continuity of design and pattern…A Capps blanket from 1915 looks very much like a Capps blanket from the 1890s.”
And again, we wish to make it clear that while Native Americans were enthusiastic customers for these elegant blankets, they were not involved in the design or manufacture of these patterns. The Capps names are listed for reference only.
Capps 1 – retired
We chose a rarity for our very first Capps tribute blanket. It is unnamed and uncatalogued in the Capps literature, but was sold in at least three color combinations. The original of this bold and beautiful version was produced circa 1910.
Capps 2 – retired
Capps referred to this as the “Cheyenne Basket pattern, a Riot of Color.” You can see it over the arm of the woman in the ad above.
Capps 3 – retired
Capps called this the “Shoshone” pattern, and the orginal version is a favorite among collectors.
Capps 4 – retired
This bright design was called “A Typical Moqui” by Capps.
Capps 5 – retired
An exciting pattern done in traditional colors, this was a consumer favorite in our Mill Tribute series. In the Capps catalog, it is called the “Kiowa Rattlesnake” pattern.
For our final Capps tribute, we chose the pattern they called “Papago.” The original Capps version is a favorite among collectors of vintage trade blankets for its graphic boldness and overall symmetry.
Our thanks to Barry Friedman for his research and writing. You can learn so much more about the Trade Blanket from Barry’s books:
As part of Native American History Month, we’d like to look back at a favorite blanket, Code Talkers (retired in 2012), which honors the exceptional valor and service of Navajo Code Talkers during WWII.
The Code Talkers
The Code Talkers developed a code that could not be cracked, based on the Navajo language. The (now retired) design shows the Navajo words and their coded meanings, which remained impenetrable to German code-breakers throughout the war.
The history of the code talkers is more riveting than any film or any fiction. You can learn more at their official site, and at other sites that tell this fascinating story, which was told in the popular movie “Windtalkers”.
They don’t have a Pendleton blanket, but the Choctaw Code Talkers of WWI deserve recognition for their role. This small group of Choctaw soldiers conveyed crucial information over tapped phone lines. You can read more about them here, and see a full list of their names.
It is worth noting that these Native American soldiers fought for the USA before they were even granted official citizenship in 1924. In the year 2008, the United Sates Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation to recognize Code Talkers from several nations: Navajo, Choctaw, Comanche and more.
As the years march on, there are fewer Code Talkers to honor, but these heroes will not be forgotten. Though Code talkers is no longer available, the Brave Star blanket celebrates the patriotism and military service of Native Americans.
This contemporary interpretation of the American flag is a celebration of the patriotism of Native Americans. In 1875 Indian scouts carried messages from fort to fort in the West. Native American soldiers saw action with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba. And soldiers from many tribes battled in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Iraq. Five Native Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery “above and beyond the call of duty.” The design marries modern asymmetry and vintage Americana. The unique striations, using pulled out yarns, reflect an era when dyes were made from plants.
In honor of the new blanket honoring Jackson Sundown, we’re sharing an older post about one of the great riders of the American West. It explains our company’s long and rich connection with the Pendleton Round-Up, and tells the story of Jackson Sundown, a real-life hero and icon of the west.
Sundown was the first Native American to win the World Saddle Bronc Championship and crowned the All-Around Cowboy at the Pendleton Round Up in 1916…at the age of 53! He was the nephew of Chief Joseph and his life spanned from the Indian Wars to frontier settlement. Pendleton has created a Jackson Sundown blanket that is only available at two locations:
Tamastslikt Cultural Institute 47106 Wildhorse Blvd. Pendleton, Oregon 97801 541.966.974
Pendleton Mill Store 1307 SE Court Pendleton, Oregon 97801 541.276.6911
The Pendleton Round-up is going on this week—an amazing rodeo adventure in Pendleton, Oregon. 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.
Ed. note–For Labor Day, we bring you stories by those who work for us day and and day out. Their employment with out company ranges from one to fifty years. The video above, filmed in one of our union mills, is by Jay Carroll (thanks, Jay).
Amanda Coppa—Product Manager, Home Division—July 2007 through present
My career experience at Pendleton has been an excellent and unique one. In nearly nine years with the Home Division I have continually evolved my position. Starting as the Home Merchandise coordinator and today I manage all the in-line and custom/collaboration Product Development for the division. I feel very fortunate to have a role where every day I am doing something different. When I started I was told I would be wearing a lot of hats. I’ve always found this appealing in a job and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m fortunate to work for a boss that has much confidence in our abilities and vision.
In addition to exploring new product categories, I love working on the custom and collaboration blanket and fabric developments. I am the liaison between the partner (Levis, UGG, Nike, Ace Hotel, Subaru and Poler for example) and our internal Pendleton teams – Fabric Design, Production and Sales. From a custom blanket or fabric to a hooded Poncho towel I handle the process from concept to production set-up. Another exciting part of my position is traveling to accounts for sales calls and tradeshows. This has taken me to many big cities, but also some places I never thought I would go… Dodgeville, WI – High Point, NC – Buffalo, NY.
One of the reasons I enjoy working here the most is my team I spend each and every day with. We not only do good work, we have fun doing it. I have quite a few great Pendleton memories, but the top three would be managing the Star Wars project, my first inspiration trip to the Southwest and the 2009 Sales Meeting in Pendleton, OR to celebrate our centennial. I know I’m in the right place and speak enthusiastically about my career when my 3 year old son already has a passion for what I do and had decided his first dog’s name is going to be “Pendleton”.
Brooke Myers—Retail Store Associate, Lancaster, PA—2015 through present
When I was younger, I did not necessarily see myself working in retail. As most children do, I saw myself doing something big – something exciting, something that would keep me on my toes and intrigue me every day. These descriptions usually do not come to mind when one says they work in retail. Working for Pendleton Woolen Mills has been a completely different experience. Who would have thought that you could be not only a salesperson, a manager; but also a historian, an explorer, and lastly a valued member of a family – not just another employee? My experience working for Pendleton has not been an ordinary one and I mean that in the best way possible.
Rich in history and heritage, the story of this company has captivated me from the beginning. Every day that I come to work I am eager to find out more. From its origins in North American exploration, Native American trade and legend, to the evolution of men’s and women’s fashion and style, the Pendleton story is not one easily forgotten. It brings me so much fulfillment to learn about the roots of this company and share the many stories of our past with others.
Another component of the multi-faceted brand of Pendleton that continues to make every day of work rewarding is the emphasis and dedication to our National Parks. By creating excitement through product and educating others about our parks, we are not only contributing to our parks monetarily but cultivating an environment that stresses the importance of the preservation and protection of our beautiful country.
Since I have started working for Pendleton Woolen Mills a little over a year ago, I can confidently say that I am now intertwined and attached to the history, craftsmanship, and uniqueness of this company. It makes my job easier knowing that I am part of a family that is dedicated to not only their brand and product, but also their employees and customers.
Lakshmi Sylvie Dady—2015 through 2016
Pendleton has been a part of my family since we migrated to this country from Guyana, South America two generations ago. It has been a great joy to continue the family tradition of working in textiles and fashion as a Pendleton employee. Although I am new to the company, the brand has a rich history that transcends corporate identity and is part of my family’s story.
Having owned her own accessory company in Guyana, South America, my German-born grandmother was immediately drawn to the Pendleton brand upon her arrival to Milwaukie, Oregon. She encouraged my mother to get an after school job in the Pendleton mill near their home. My mother, then a mere 16 years of age, quickly learned the hard work that goes into producing the high quality Pendleton products our family coveted. Mama went on to a career in nursing and eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps of owning her own company, manufacturing fashion forward scrubs called “It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts.” Surely her humble beginnings in the mill helped build the foundation for creating her own textile business years later.
Growing up in the Northwest, Pendleton is as much a part of being an Oregonian as is relishing the rain. From my Native best friend whose parents draped themselves and their home in the rich colors and patterns of Pendleton to receiving a full outfit from the company as a Rose Festival Princess in 2009, Pendleton patterns are the unofficial flag of this fine state. Going into the corporate office to get custom fitted for my Pendleton outfit as Cleveland High Schools Rose Festival Princess remains a highlight of my experience on the court. I still relish my sesquicentennial ‘Spirit of the People’ patterned skirt, glass case, notebook cover and purse gifted by the company. The company went so far as to sew custom labels with our title and name onto our skirts, I smile every time I see my “Princess Sylvie” tag.
My love for this brand has only grown over time and gifts from it continue to be highly valued amongst my family. Upon my return to Portland after 7 years away for undergrad and graduate school, I was thrilled to see a position open at the Pendleton store at the Portland International Airport. I’ve been with the company since March, 2016 and thoroughly enjoy continuing the family tradition of working for America’s greatest woolen mill.
It’s been a pleasure reflecting on my Pendleton story and I hope you feel inspired to continue creating yours.
Verna J. Ashton—1966 through 2016 with assistance to:
Strategical Services Head, Ed Pedley
Fabric Design Dept. Head, John Jouret
Presidents C.M. Bishop, Jr. and C.M. Bishop III
Although the scrapbooks confirm a mid-60’s employment record with Pendleton Woolen Mills, my personal connection begins a few years earlier. When I met my future husband, Richard Ashton, at High School, his father, Howard Ashton, worked for the Bureau of U.S. Customs and his office just happened to be located on the 2nd floor, NE corner of the old / former US. Custom’s Building directly across the street West of the current Pendleton Building (if he were still there, my office window would have looked directly into his!). He often told us of his travels for the day and related several times when he was assigned to go to the docks to inspect bales of wool being brought into the country from Australia or New Zealand to be delivered to Pendleton’s Columbia Wool Scouring Plant – beginning the process of becoming fine woolen fabrics. Additionally, my future Mother-in-law, Marion Ashton, worked as a spinner at Pendleton’s Foundation Factory Plant and it was there that she obtained fabrics for hand-sewn shirts for her son and gave me the remnants so I could make matching garments. Our matching outfits were always commented on at school and especially the red/black plaids worn on “spirit day” as those were our school colors.
Connections first through the Ashton family, and yes, Richard too was employed summers and even refinished the wood floors in the Foundation Plant along with the Brot Bishop boys; but it was through my sister, Malinda Pfeifle Staples, that I became acquainted with Pendleton as my employer as she held the secretary position under Ed Pedley in Statistical Services. In April 1966 I had a choice to make – either continue studies at Portland State College or take the offer at Pendleton to work for Mr. Pedley – my sister was leaving to begin her family. Thus began a life journey that though the formal career has now officially concluded with retirement on April 29th, I am in the finishing room. The friendships, relationships, business associations and memories are completing my life-story tapestry by attaching the binding edges.
My story begins with being honored to meet and know C. M. Bishop until his passing in 1969; a never-to-be forgotten innocent and embarrassing blunder voiced during a National Sales Meeting at Salishan Lodge (Coffee, Tea or… how does that go?!); Shorthand learned in High School proved invaluable when asked to take notes from the Ambassador to Romania (Alan Green) while vising with his friend C. M. Bishop, Jr.; Sitting at the feet of Ms. Pat Mitchell (who had been secretary to C. M. Bishop) learning valuable history, skills and understanding. Pat will celebrate 107 years of life this August; Letters and phone calls to our Nation’s President George Bush (the elder Bush) as well as many other US Representatives, State Governors and political figures who were friends to the Bishop family; Assisting Portland’s current First Lady, Nancy Hales, in her mission for Pendleton gifts to take abroad for government dignitaries on the Mayor’s travels, and garments to wear herself – a true Pendleton Ambassador; Relationships with Round-Up personalities, Queen Whitney White in 2007, Native American Elders…
But long before hearing Mr. B’s (C.M. Bishop, Jr.) 1993 corporate speech quoting a 1941 inscription written to him by his Father, C. M. Bishop, on the flyleaf of his co-authored book “Pioneer Woolen Mills in Oregon,” I felt and experienced these words “… the best inheritance to receive or to leave is a good name” lived out not only through the Bishop men and Management of the Company, but also every one of the women – wives, aunts, sisters, and daughters – in their consistent and constant sweet spirits, graciousness and courtesies. “ I subscribe to a belief that as Pendleton has been blessed with the ability to create through the woven thread beautiful fabrics and designs that many covet, cherish and last a lifetime, God is weaving our life-story through our relationships and responses to His shuttle.
Pendleton Woolen Mills and the Bishop family have and are leaving that good name and reputation for future generations. Honesty, integrity, the Golden Rule standard are the legacy that keeps Pendleton great and America strong. God bless America and God bless Pendleton Woolen Mills. Cheers!
It’s an exciting time, with competition and medals ahead. To celebrate, we’re taking a look back at our Olympic blankets, shipped for the Games of 1932. That post is below, but before you read it, please enjoy some photos sent to us by readers who have found some interesting colorations of Pendleton Olympiad blankets.
Paul, of Ahsland, Oregon, found this rarity:
Beautiful green, and how about those ombred stripes? Nice, yes?
And we also heard from Eric. He read this post and realized he had exactly the kind of rarity we are looking for.
We aren’t sure how many colors we made in this blanket and this is the first lilac version we have seen!
Here is this 82 year-old collector’s item in use.
Pendleton’s Olympiad blankets
In 1932, we won the commission to provide blankets to the Olympics. Here is a photo of the blankets leaving on a train for Los Angeles.
There are several known colorways for these blankets. In our archives, we have only one, with a very warm color scheme. There are also a light blue and a brights-on-white patterns out there, but we haven’t been able to track down examples. There might even be more. Here is our archival blanket.
Here is a close-up of the label.
That’s a VERY CLOSE close up, isn’t it? Even so, the label is worn enough that you might want the label’s text:
Olympic fever is nothing new, and Pendleton traded on it with themed displays.
In the displays, mannequins wear tasteful blanket coats that look modern. We are not sure if those were sewn and offered for sale by Pendleton, or sewn just for display to encourage consumers to get creative with the blankets. Pendleton did manufacture labeled blanket coats for women over the years, but our first women’s sportswear line debuted in 1949 with our 49’er jacket as the centerpiece.
And yes, at $7.95, you can’t beat that price.
If you have an example of the other colors of the Pendleton blankets, drop us a line (as Eric did when we ran this post back during the Russia Olympics). We would love some color photos of other examples. Write to us at PendletonWM@penmills.com.
We sent our Grand Canyon blanket home to Grand Canyon National Park with photographer Kristian Irey, celebrating 100 years of our National Park Service.
Kristin’s thoughtful shots at the rim of this natural marvel are some of our favorites. And the Grand Canyon is one of the recipients of our fundraising efforts. All year, through sales of our own and collaborative National Park projects, we have been raising money to help restore the Grand Canyon’s train depot.
The Grand Canyon Depot in Grand Canyon Village is the Park’s “front door,” used as a meeting place for adventurers for over 100 years. This National Historic Landmark is the Park’s most-photographed man-made structure. Pendleton’s contributions will help improve accessibility and preserve the character of this National Historic Landmark.
According to the National Park Service, “Nearly 230,000 visitors per year arrive at the Depot via the Grand Canyon Railway, which is an important component of the park’s transportation system. Currently the Grand Canyon Railway, owned and operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, runs up to two trains per day to the park from Williams, Arizona – saving approximately 300 daily vehicle trips during the peak visitor season.” That is approximately 50,000 cars, trucks and campers that will not add wear, tear and crowding to roads leading in and out of the park, thanks to the train.
Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter
Before the railroad opened in 1901, tourists had to fork over $15.00 for a three-day stagecoach ride to see the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival, they were accommodated in tent camps, a situation that didn’t change until the Santa Fe Railroad hired architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter to design six iconic buildings for the park, mostly on the South Rim.
Hopi House, 1905
Hermit’s Rest, 1914
Lookout Studio, 1914
Phantom Ranch, 1922
The Watchtower at Desert View, 1932
Bright Angel Lodge, 1935
Her work still stands today, having become an integral part of this vast, commanding landscape. You can learn more here: Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter