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Native Americans Appreciated Pendleton
Woolen Blankets

By the 1890s, the wide open expanses of eastern Oregon, Washington and Idaho had been found to be ideal for the herding of large flocks of sheep. From this region of the Northwest, the wool was shipped - complete with dirt, sand, burrs, weeds, twigs and grass - to the textile mills of the East. Much of it was shipped form the town of Pendleton, Oregon, which sat alongside the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad at the foot of the Blue Mountains.

The railroads charged the shippers by the pound, and the foreign matter that was attached to the wool sometimes made up as much as 60 percent of the total weight.
The first money-saving solution was obvious; a wool-scouring mill was erected in Pendleton and the wool was cleaned before it was shipped.

The men of the Union Pacific didn’t allow this savings to last for long. They simply raised the rate for shipping cleaned wool.

The second solution was almost as obvious. The textile mill was brought to Pendleton, thus avoiding shipping the wool altogether. thus, in 1895, the Pendleton Woolen Mills was started.

The easiest product to make was the woolen blanket. But from the beginning, Pendleton was not content to make just plain blankets. the company hired a textile designer named Joe Rounsley. He was fascinated by the designs of the nearby Nez Perce Indians and began designing blankets that incorporated American Indian designs.

The company offered them as “Indian pattern” blankets. The first and most enthusiastic customers were the Indians themselves. In fact, Pendleton “Indian pattern” blankets became a symbol of wealth in some tribes. A few even required that a person be buried in one of these blankets.

When the woolen mill was purchased in 1909 by the Bishop family, they continued to develop Indian pattern designs. some ideas wee brought in by the Indians themselves, to be woven into blankets of many colors. Pendleton blankets were eventually used on almost every Indian reservation in America, which added to the ever-growing number of designs.

The white man, too, quickly came to appreciate both the designs and the quality of the Pendleton blankets. From the beginning, Pendleton stressed the high caliber of the fabric it used, describing it as being made from “pure fleece wool.”

By the 1920s, the Pendleton Woolen Mills had expanded its output to include Indian robes, bath robes, steamer rugs, couch covers, tapestries and shawls, in addition to the blankets. The blue and gold label was in place on each product, and owners could either point to it with pride or, if more modest, could let it be casually exposed.

A Pendleton bath robe in 1929 sold for $18.50, including a delivery charge to any place in the United States. It looked a lot like a blanket with sleeves.

The steamer rugs were popular for use in the auto, and sold for just $12.50. There were also simpler bed blankets that sold for as little as $4 for a double-bed size.

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Roycroft Community Part Of
Arts & Craft Movement

Roycroft mark used between 1906 and 1938.
Three variations of this Roycroft mark were used between 1906 and 1938.

The Arts and Crafts movement, which began in England in the late 1800s, was most popular in the United States from about 1890 to 1910. The basic concept of thismovement was a reactionto the sometimes shoddy workmanship of massproduced common itemsthat had occurred following the Industrial Revolution. Common items, such as furniture, metal work, books andfabrics, when hand-made by a skilled worker, could be works of art.

Elbert Hubbard was one of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States, and he founded the Roycroft Community based on these ideals. Hubbard was apparently a very charismatic person, in addition to being a nationally famous author, publisher, editor and lecturer, and he was able to attract numerous skilled craftsmen to Roycroft.

Although based on certain ideals, Roycroft was definitely a business enterprise which, at its peak, employed over 500 workers producing furniture, book binding, weaving and metal work.

Hubbard and his wife, Alice, were lost at sea when the Lusitania wa sunk in 1915, but the Roycroft Community continued under the leadership of their son, Bert. It lasted through the first part of the Depression of the 1930s, but was eventually shut down in 1938.

Kevin McConnell has written a book and price guide, Roycroft Art Metal, and it is now available in the 4th revised edition from Schiffer Publishing. (ISBN: 978-0-7643- 2990-6) It sells for $16.99.

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Geography Lesson Helpful In Dating

The part of Europe known as Bohemia was inhabited by two different groups of people, the Czechs and the Slovaks, both of whom settled in Eastern Europe in the 5th century. Until World War I, they were dominated by the neighboring countries of Austria and Hungary. They united into a single country, Czechoslovakia, following the war.

This information is useful in helping to date items made in this area. Anything marked Bohemia was made prior to World War I. After 1918, items were marked Czechoslovakia, Czech-oslovakia (with a hyphen,) or Made in Czechoslovakia. These marks were used until the beginning of World War II.

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