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Not Pendleton & Not Indian,
But Beacon Made These Blankets

Four colors were the maximum that could be woven into a blanket, at Beacon, but this blanket looks as if it has many more, “c.1920s.”

In the Pacific Northwest, if we think of special blankets, the Pendleton blankets usually come to mind first. However, elsewhere in the country, Beacon blankets may be the first kind that are thought of. Many of the designs of the Beacon Manufacturing Company are similar to Native American motifs.

The company started in 1905, producing cotton flannel fabric which was made into bathrobes, housecoats and regular bed blankets. It expanded rapidly and in a short seven years had grown from 20 employees to over 800. From the first, it was a start-to-finish operation. They bought their own raw materials, and did their own spinning, dying, and production of the finished product.

By the 1920s, Beacon was the largest blanket manufacturer under one roof in the United States. The company’s blankets, made of cotton, wool, or a blend, came off the looms by the millions. They were sold through department and dry goods stores. One of them is an important feature of a Norman Rockwell painting.

In the early 1930s, a suit was filed by the Navajo nation to the Federal Trade Comm­ission. The outcome by the FDA ordered the company to cease using Indian names for its blankets and Indian photographs to promote them, on the basis that they gave the false impression to the buying public that the blankets had been made by Indians. Under the ruling, the blankets could still be called Indian blankets if they used a qualifying term such as “Beacon design Indian blankets.”

By the late 1930s there were 1500 styles of Beacon blankets in the line, and they reported sales of 21 million blankets.

During World War II, Beacon won the contract to supply wool blankets for the armed services. The machines were converted from cotton and cotton/wool blend to all wool, and seven million wool blankets were produced (which required 25 million pounds of wool.)

For examples of Beacon designs, labels, fabrics and garments, see Beacon Blankets Make Warm Friends, by Jerry and Kathy Brownstein. It is a Schiffer publication.

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Decorative Paperwork Was Design Feature

Quillwork, or paper filigree, was a form of decorative paperwork of the late 1800s. Small strips of paper, about an eighth of an inch wide, were fluted, twisted or rolled into tight little scrolls.

Then these little pieces were pasted in a design onto a dark background of wood, silk or paper. Sometimes they were touched up further with a little paint or gilding at the edges.

Items decorated with paper filigree included frames, boxes, sconces and panels of screens.

Seeds, beads, shells, and metallic threads could also be added to enhance the design.

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Art Deco Introduced At Paris Exposition

The Paris Exposition of 1925 was an art exhibition which introduced the ideas of Art Deco to the world. Although the style had been developing for several years at that time, this exposition named the movement and brought it to the attention of the general public.

Straight lines, geometric patterns and Egyptian themes were the basic motifs utilized by this new style.

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