Prior to the white mans push into the western Unites States, Native Americans would use animal hides for much of their clothing and to protect themselves from the elements. Some time in the 17th century the Navajo began producing wool textiles for wearing themselves and trading to other Native Americans and to the Spanish. Their blankets were of such high quality that they were the preferred material of the Spanish and their other trade partners.
By the late 1700’s fur traders were bringing in Hudson Bay Point blankets to trade for fur. They were the only trade blanket present until the late 1800’s. The points on the Hudson Bay Point blankets referred to the size and weight of the particular blanket. These thin anil dyed lines would be visible without unfolding the blanket.
By the late 1800’s the Indian wars were over and traders on the Navajo reservation began marketing Navajo rugs to the white people. These “rugs” were much heavier then the Navajo wearing blankets and were made to lie on the floor of non-Indian homes. These new textiles initially mimicked the Oriental rugs which were popular at that time. From this point onward there were few if any weavers making the traditional wearing blankets.
With the Navajo out of the blanket business it created a void which companies like Buell, Capps, Oregon City, Racine, Schuler, Knights and last but not least Pendleton were ready to fill. These companies created rich colorful patterns to sell to the Native Americans.
Pendleton, which started in 1896, became the only survivor of the original weavers. By 1942 all of these companies were producing products needed by the war effort. This is why all collectible blankets are between 1890 and 1942.
Pendleton resumed weaving Indian blankets in 1947 and was the only one of the original companies to do so. Pendleton Woolen Mills continues to be the only company to produce blankets with Native American designs. Recently they have produced a line of Tribute blankets which pay homage to the blankets produced by their competitors of old. This line is appropriately called the Tribute Line. Four new blankets are produced each year from the Buell, Capps, Oregon City and Racine companies historic offerings of Indian blankets. You can this years offerings of the Pendleton Tribute Blankets .
In addition to the tribute to others blankets Pendleton also has a line of blankets called the Heritage blankets. This line contains old Pendleton blanket designs from different eras.