Yellowstone Park Blankets – An Illustrated History by Fred Coldwell                     

Guest Blogger

Editor’s note: We are excited to bring you a guest post by our Park Blanket expert, Fred Coldwell. As we unveil our newest version of this design, Fred agreed to share his research into the rich history of the Yellowstone National Park blanket. Many of the blankets shown are part of his extensive collection, which he displays at talks and lectures around the country. Enjoy!

Some Park Blanket Background

Yellowstone National Park became our country’s first national park on March 1, 1872.  Pendleton Woolen Mills began designing its first Yellowstone Park blanket during Yellowstone’s 50th Anniversary and issued it the following year, in May 1923. Today, during Yellowstone Park’s 150th Anniversary year, Pendleton Woolen Mills is again honoring our first national park with a new Yellowstone Park Blanket. But before unveiling it, we will look at some earlier Yellowstone Park blankets manufactured during its first 100 years.

Pendleton’s first national park blanket was the Glacier Park blanket, introduced in September 1916. By early 1923, four different Glacier Park blankets were offered in two sizes and in two lengths, single or double. A double length was two uncut single blankets sold as a double. The official Glacier Park blanket had 4 bars of black, yellow, red and green (going from the ends to the center) on a white body. The Glacier Park has always been 100% virgin wool in both warp (vertical threads) and weft (horizontal threads).  

The Yellowstone Park blanket was introduced in 1923. No description was given but the first one had the same colors and design as the Glacier Park but with a cotton warp instead of wool, making it slightly less expensive. To simplify the Glacier Park line, by 1924 nearly all the different versions of the Glacier Park blanket were shifted to the Yellowstone Park line and the Glacier Park line was reduced to just two blankets, the official one and pure white.  

the earliest Yellowstone blanket and the Glacier blanket
The similarities between the earliest Yellowstone blanket and the Glacier blanket are clear in this photo.

The first Yellowstone Park blankets came in only one size, 66” x 80”, but in both a 4 pound single length and an 8 pound double (160”) length. Early Yellowstones had felt binding on each end and had 4 points of the same color as the outermost bar sewn in the lower left hand corner of the center field. Four or five points indicating the blanket’s size were sewn in them from the beginning of production in 1923.

Early Yellowstones had two labels, a permanent sewn blue Pendleton copyright 1921 label and a temporary 5-1/2 inch square cardboard label stapled to the blanket. The cardboard label contained an image of a buffalo based on 1920’s season pass auto decals for Yellowstone National Park.  

Two early cardboard lables for the Yellowstone blanket, showing buffalo
First Buffalo card label (right):  This rare surviving cardboard label was the first Yellowstone Park Blanket label used from May, 1923 to 1925-1926. It includes the blanket weight, 4 pounds, size, 66 x 80 inches, and color 27, which is the black, yellow, red and green bars of the Glacier Park blanket. Stapled to the blanket, it usually was quickly removed after purchase, leaving only the Pendleton copyright 1921 blanket label as identification.  

Changes over the Years

 In 1924, the official Yellowstone Park Blanket was white with blue, orange, green and yellow bars at each end, similar to the Glacier Park in appearance.

Two early Pendletn National Park blankets, Yellowstone and Glacier
Two 1920s blankets: Yellowstone on left, Glacier Park on right.

All the other Yellowstone Park blankets were either white, light grey, or camel. The first two had 2 bars at each end of old rose, lavender, delft blue, or black. The camel had 2 bars of brown, black, orange or delft blue at each end.

Very simple Yellowstone blankets from 1924 to 1928
1924-28 Yellowstone blankets: These Yellowstone delft blue and old rose 2 bar blankets were woven between 1924 and 1928 and have only their Pendleton copyright 1921 blanket labels remaining. Their Yellowstone cardboard labels were removed decades ago.

In mid-1927, the two lavender bars on Yellowstone Park white and light gray blankets were replaced by two orchid bars on each end. In early 1928, the number of Yellowstone Park blankets was reduced. Orchid and black bars were discontinued on white blankets; orchid and old rose bars were discontinued on light grey blankets; and black bars were discontinued on camel blankets. Yet many other colorful Yellowstone Park blankets continued to be produced.  

By the mid-1920s the cardboard label was replaced with a silk sewn buffalo label.  

1920s sewn-on buffalo labels
1929 Park pass and sewn-on Buffalo labels, early and late

These first buffalo labels had nothing written outside the octagon. Sometime after the Yellowstone Park label was registered as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in April 1926, and the cotton warp threads were replaced with wool, the phrases “Trademark Reg. U.S. Pat. Office” and “100% Virgin Wool” were added to the buffalo label outside the octagon.  No firm date for this label change has been documented, but it likely happened in the late 1920s.     

Further changes occurred in 1929. The white Yellowstone blankets with 2 bars at each end were retired and replaced by green and peach blankets with black, orange, green and yellow bars at each end. The camel blanket with two delft blue bars was also retired.

By 1934 the length of the Yellowstone Park blanket had increased to 84” and it was now available in two widths, 66” wide weighing 4 pounds having 4 points and 72” wide weighing 5 pounds having 5 points. Double length Yellowstone blankets were discontinued.

Three early Yellowstone blankets with buffalo labels
3 Buffalos with 4 points each:  An early official Yellowstone on the left lost its yellow top bar to red in the later two Yellowstones on the right, whose colors also lost some intensity.  

The 1934 Yellowstone Park blankets had 3” bars of blue, orange, green and red at each end, with red replacing the earlier yellow.  These 4 color bars were available on 5 body colors: white (the official Yellowstone Park blanket), light green, tan, peach, and blue, as shown in the fan of fabric samples. A desert tan Yellowstone blanket had 2 brown bars at each end.

Early Pendleton catalog illustration showing all colors available in teh Yellowstone blanket
Catalog illustration showing all the Yellowstone variations in 1934
Catalog illustration showing the light green version
Catalog illustration showing the light green version, a popular color in the 1930s. Note the four points.
These Buffalo label Yellowstones were all made before 1938, including one with Black, Yellow, Red and Green bars.
These Buffalo label Yellowstones were all made before 1938, including one with Black, Yellow, Red and Green bars.

A New Look

A new Yellowstone Park Blanket appeared by 1938 and replaced all the former 4 color bar Yellowstones, which were shifted to the Yosemite Blanket line. This new Official Yellowstone Park blanket had 3 bars of black, red, and black at each end on a cream body.

Catalog photo of the bold new Yellowstone blanket of 1938
Catalog illustration of the bold new Yellowstone blanket of 1938

It came in two sizes, 66” x 84” weighing 4 pounds and 72” x 90” weighing 5 pounds. The smaller 4 pound blanket had 4 points sewn across each red bar while the larger 5 pound Yellowstone had 5 points sewn across its red bars. This new Yellowstone also received a new label, a bear inside a circle based on then current Yellowstone Park Hotel luggage labels that replaced the old buffalo label.

Bear blanket label at left, and luggage sticker that inspired it on right
Blanket label with bear (left), and luggage sticker that inspired it (right)

All national park blankets lost their points sometime between 1935 and 1938, so any Pendleton national park blanket with points was woven earlier than 1938. The only exception was the new Official Yellowstone Park that had 4 or 5 points sewn into its red bar.

1938 Yellowstone Park Official blankets
1938 Yellowstone Park Official blankets: A 4 point 66 x 84 inch Yellowstone rests on top of a 5 point 72 x 90 inch Yellowstone, each with a bear label.

Finally, in 1938 the length of the wider 72” national park blankets had increased by another 6” to 90” long.

Wartime Disruption

National Park blanket civilian production was limited during WW II to supply only Pendleton’s existing customers. They became available again to new customers when full civilian production resumed in August 1945. The number and variety of Yellowstone Park Blankets was greatly reduced after WW II to just a single design in two or more sizes.

After the war Pendleton produced a special commemorative branded cedar box with leather hinges to hold its black-red-black bar Yellowstone Park blanket. Though I cannot confirm it, I imagine this unusual combination celebrated Yellowstone Park’s 75th Anniversary in 1947.

Photo of blanket and a cedar box
This photo shows the artfully charred cedar box at lower right, of special interest to collectors.

The Thin Line Version

At an unknown later date, the bold and beautiful 3 bar Yellowstone Park blanket was replaced by a new Yellowstone Park Blanket having 7 thin stripes of black/red/green/black/green/red/black at each end.

7 thin stripe Yellowstone blanket
7 thin stripe Yellowstone blanket – stripes are woven with longer fibers to have an “eyelash” effect

Early production 7 thin stripe Yellowstone blankets continued to use the bear label, but at some later unknown date Pendleton renamed its national park blankets as National Park Series blankets with the park name preceding that new designation. New arched labels were issued with this new designation and were used on all national park blankets.  A line drawing of an animal or feature associated with the park was placed within the arch on each label.

Yellowstone Park arched label with bear
Yellowstone Arched label:  The Yellowstone Park arched label retained the bear as representative of Yellowstone.

These label were used from at least 1992, and very likely earlier, through 2008 in combination with a current Pendleton blue blanket label. This 7 thin stripe is the most commonly found Yellowstone Park blanket in online auction sites.

The Yellowstone Park 7 thin stripe blanket appears in a 1993 Pendleton blanket catalog but not in a 2002 catalog, so it was discontinued sometime between 1993 and 2002.

A Bold Return

The Yellowstone Park did not return to production until mid-2008 for 2009, Pendleton’s 100th Anniversary year, when a new version appeared in Pendleton catalogs. It remains in production through 2021.

2008 - 2021 Yellowstone Park blanket
2009 Yellowstone blanket

This 2009 Yellowstone Park Blanket has two thick and thin bars of blue and red at each end on a marigold body, which echoes the golden hue of quaking aspen trees in autumn. It received a new commemorative label as did all other Pendleton national park blankets in 2009.

Close up of label, which has returned to buffalo
Sewn-on labels for the Yellowstone Park blanket

These new labels contain a park animal or scene inside a circle within an octagon, harking back to the very first national park labels used by Pendleton in the 1920s. They also include the year that park was established along with Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon, the location of its factory weaving all national park blankets. The Yellowstone Park label returns to a buffalo within a circle inside an octagon, honoring the very first Yellowstone Park blanket cardboard labels. All of these new national park blanket labels are accompanied by a Pendleton Home Collection label with the trademarked Indian tepee on top, in celebration of Pendleton’s 100th Anniversary of Bishop family ownership.

Today’s New Yellowstone

This year’s new Yellowstone Park 150th Anniversary blanket is a stunner, with thin stripes of the 1920s Yellowstone bar colors blue, green, orange and red contained within thicker navy blue bands with red trim. The two outermost bars are a recoloring of the thick and thin bar design from the most recent marigold Yellowstone blanket.

new Yellowstone National Park blanket for 2022
The new Yellowstone Park blanket for 2022

These bright colors are also grounded in the Park itself, capturing the bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ringing the deep blue waters found in Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

closeup of new Yellowstone National Park blanket for 2022
A close look at the stripes, which echo the colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring

These new Yellowstone blankets on a taupe body come in two sizes, an 80” x 90” twin and a 90” x 90” queen. They are joined by a 54” x 72” throw for picnics, games, and other outdoor events.  

New Yellowstone throw with leather carrier
Yellowstone throw with leather carrier

A century long celebration in virgin wool of our oldest national park continues in 2022 with bright new colors in a traditional Pendleton banded park design. These freshest Yellowstone Park Blankets will be available soon. Celebrate Yellowstone’s sesquicentennial with some new threads!

See it here: Yellowstone National Park Blanket