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At the end of the nineteenth century, Pendleton and other American woolen mills began manufacturing dazzling geometric-pattern blankets for trade and sale to the American Indian. In 1911 the Beacon Manufacturing Company began producing cotton blankets in Native American-inspired patterns. Known today as Indian camp blankets, they are coveted by collectors nationwide. Indian trade and camp blankets have become icons of Adirondack and western decor, and Chasing Rainbows is the first book to cover both blanket types. Every manufacturer is discussed, including two previously unknown to collectors. Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of spectacular blankets, original manufacturers' catalog pages, and rare photographs of legendary figures such as Buffalo Bill and Geronimo, this lively book offers valuable information on the nuances of collecting: identifying and dating blankets from the "golden age" of the Indian trade blanket (1892-1942) and the Indian camp blanket (1911-1942), judging condition, finding blankets, and caring for them properly. The culmination of more than thirty years of research, Chasing Rainbows is an indispensable reference for collectors of Indian blankets and the many enthusiasts of rustic style as well as a fascinating look at the textile industry, Indian traders, and American Indians in the Old West. 320 full-color photographs and 60 black-and-white illustrations
|Product dimensions:||9.62(w) x 11.76(h) x 1.18(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Barry Friedman James H. Collins Gary Diamond
Bulfinch PressBarry Friedman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWherein We Begin to Weave Our Tale
The last quarter of the nineteenth century found America engaged in a second civil war. Our first civil war was fought to free the slaves, This time war was waged to enslave the free.
History doesn't brand it the second civil war, but rather the Indian Wars. The participants became American icons: Sitting Bull, Custer, Crazy Horse, Kit Carson, Cochise, Buffalo Bill, Chief Joseph, U. S. Grant, Geronimo.
In the end, inevitably, the original Americans were defeated by the superior numbers and withering firepower of the unoriginal Americans. By 1890 the Indian Wars were over and the entire native population settled onto reservations.
It couldn't have been otherwise. Free Indians roaming when and where they chose did not mesh with the reality of late-nineteenth-century American life. The Industrial Age had arrived, and America demanded civilization at the expense of its indigenous people. Repeating rifles rolled out of the eastern factories in endless numbers. The historical record may reflect that the Indians were outfought, but in truth they were outnumbered and outengineered. A hail of bullets sent bows, arrows, knives, and clubs clattering eternally to the ground.
Many Americans found Indians a most worthy and even romantic enemy. They admired the tenacity of Geronimo and the eloquence of Chief Joseph and yet looked on apathetically as the American armies perpetrated genocide on the native population. They lamented the buffalo that had been slaughtered to virtual extinction and looked to their defeated Indian foes as symbols of American courage and freedom. The noble red man was part of our nation's mythology before the Indian Wars had even concluded. Although saluted in poetry song, and art, the free Indian was seen as an impediment to progress as delineated in the expansionist doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The American public would eulogize the courageous fallen native warrior, but they would certainly not stand in the way of what they perceived as his quite necessary demise.
The Indian Wars served as a long-running and interesting diversion for most of America. The engagements were fought far, far away from the centers of population, in places most Americans had neither heard of nor seen. Having no familiarity with hostile tribes or the battlegrounds upon which they fought, the general populace likely felt as if the Indian Wars were occurring on another planet entirely There were no Cheyenne or Blackfoot warriors attacking the good citizens of Baltimore or Chicago. Nobody was counting coup in Cooperstown. A battle on the Great Plains or a skirmish with the Apache in Arizona Territory was something a gentleman read about in his copy of Harper's Weekly or a fanciful Ned Buntline dime novel.
The Indian Wars dragged on for many years, and as tribe after tribe capitulated, they were placed on reservations while the unconquered fought doggedly on. As these beleaguered but still free Indians continued their ultimately doomed resistance, those already defeated became objects of curiosity, amusement, and entertainment.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show began long before the Indian Wars were over and played to capacity crowds. While Cody and his troupe of soldiers and Indians recreated famous battles, authentic life-and-death clashes were still occurring from the Badlands of South Dakota to the mountain ranges of the Southwest. The soldiers and Indians who participated in these very real battles didn't rise to the cheers of a crowd. Many never rose again at all.
In a clash of cultures that can only be interpreted as surreal, tourists in Yellowstone Park, which had been created in 1872, looked on as a desperate band of Nez Perce men, women, and children led by Chief Looking Glass and Chief Joseph rode through the park while being pursued by General Oliver O. Howard's troops in the Nez Perce War of 1877.
Sitting Bull, the ferocious Hunkpapa Sioux chief, surrendered in 1881. Only five years earlier he had been instrumental in the annihilation of Custer's Seventh Cavalry. In 1884, a mere eight years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, he toured twenty-five cities, selling his picture and autograph. The Indian Wars raged on for another six years.
Incredibly, the romanticizing and selling of the West had begun while the history of the region was still being written. As soon as the last free Indian had been settled on a reservation, tourism in the West began in earnest. Like the vacationers of any age, many travelers sought souvenirs to commemorate their journey. What better reminder of the newly tamed West for the Boston banker or the Cleveland industrialist than an Indian pot or colorful weaving?
Languishing on the reservations, the fiercely independent native population had been transformed into powerless consumers - assigned to lands deemed worthless by the whites, and dependent on the government dole for shoddy goods and food.
THE BIRTH OF THE INDIAN TRADE BLANKET
After 1890 it was no longer difficult for traders to conduct business with all the Indians of North America. There were no more hostile warriors to avoid or win over, no nomadic tribes to follow along the game trails.
Federally licensed traders built posts all over the reservations from East Coast to West, and their shelves bore the bounty of industrial and agricultural America. Crates of Arbuckles coffee and twists of tobacco shared space with mirrors and hats and rakes.
Also stacked neatly on the traders' shelves were woolen blankets in a rainbow of colors featuring bold geometric patterns. Here was an item unlike anything else in the traders' inventory. With the exception of these blankets, the entirety of the traders' stock had been designed for white consumers. These blankets were something completely different - an altogether unique product designed and commercially manufactured by whites specifically to appeal to the aesthetic taste of the American Indian.
The Indian trade blanket had arrived in style.
To collectors, they are also known as Indian blankets, Indian pattern blankets, Indian-style blankets, or Indian design blankets. Trade blankets are also generically called Pendleton blankets, which is appropriate when the blanket in question happens to be a product of the Pendleton Woolen Mills. However, Pendleton was just one of many important trade-blanket manufacturers.
Fringed blankets were made for women and called shawls. Unfringed blankets were manufactured for Indian men and called robes. All trade-blanket patterns are reversible - essentially two different blankets for the price of one. The earliest blankets were all wool but in time were made of wool with a cotton warp.
To further define the trade blanket, it is a blanket made for Indians rather than by Indians.
Trade blankets should not be confused with camp blankets, or Beacon blankets. Camp blanket is a synonym for a cotton blanket, and Beacon is the most famous manufacturer of cotton Indian blankets. While of tremendous interest to collectors and an important aspect of this book, this type of blanket was never a part of the Indian trade and began appearing almost twenty years after wool trade blankets were introduced.
Produced in great quantities by many manufacturers in every possible combination of colors and geometric configurations, the Indian trade blanket has endured for well over a century It was universally embraced by Indians throughout America, and its appeal has never waned. Even today, Pendleton Woolen Mills, the only surviving pioneer Indian blanket manufacturer, sells a good half of its production to native people. The majority of these blankets are purchased by members of our country's largest tribe, the Navajo.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE TRADE BLANKET
An examination of the trade-blanket family tree reveals that the trade blanket is the more complex descendant of the ubiquitous Hudson's Bay blanket that was a staple of the fur trade and bartered to indigenous people throughout North America.
Manufactured first in England and then by Canadian and American mills as well, the classic Hudson's Bay pure white blanket with its black, yellow, red, and green stripes has remained virtually unchanged for over two hundred years. Made in many weights, with the quality of the blanket defined by small stripes called points, these blankets were the common currency of the fur trade and were exchanged throughout North America for pelts of beaver, fox, otter, wildcat, and wolverine. The lowest grade was the one-point blanket, and the blankets increased in quality by half-point increments to a maximum of six points. More points indicated a heavier and finer blanket that required more pelts in trade. The point system was specifically tied to the beaver trade, with one point having the value of one "made" beaver pelt: a good, quality pelt of an adult beaver.
Thomas Empson of Witney, England, manufactured the very first point blankets for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1780. For that initial order Empson made five hundred pairs of blankets - one hundred pairs each of 1-, 1 1/2, 2-, 2 1/2-, and 3-point blankets. They were shipped to Fort Albany in northern Ontario, a major Hudson's Bay Company fur-trading post.
Since that time they have been manufactured in enormous numbers. Today it is possible to find a Hudson's Bay blanket [or ten} at any sizable flea market almost anywhere in the country. Despite their great historic importance, they are not a coveted collector's item, because whether new or old they all look virtually identical. I would consider three a major collection. It is the very early geometric-pattern Indian trade blankets that serious collectors crave. These blankets were sold to both American Indians and the white trade. The manufacturers did not market certain patterns to Indians and a completely different group to non-Indians. All the designs were available to any potential customer, with the sole exception of a single blanket made by Pendleton, which will be discussed momentarily.
Indian-owned trade blankets were worn as everyday attire, doubling as bedding and tripling as ceremonial dance shawls for Indian women. Blankets were used until they were no longer usable, and some tribes even buried their dead with their blankets. For many years Pendleton has sold an all-black blanket that has never appeared in its colorful catalogs or been offered for sale to the non-Indian market. Called the Zuni, it is a burial blanket marketed directly to the Zuni tribe. It is the only blanket Pendleton has ever sold directly to a tribe rather than through its standard distribution system.
The great early trade blankets that have entered the collector's market from Native American sources can be counted on one hand. The possibility that magnificent early blankets exist in huge numbers on reservations and are treasured by the descendants of their original owners is a hypothesis often expressed by hopeful collectors. Unfortunately, I have found no factual basis for this supposition. Blankets were common, utilitarian items on the reservations, and there was no compelling reason to treat them gently or save them for future generations.
In recent years Indian blankets that have emerged from dead pawn [the term for an item unredeemed by its owner and therefore legal for the pawnshop operator to sell) in such Navajo Indian trading centers as Gallup and Farmington, New Mexico, date no earlier than the 1970s and usually are from the 1990s.
Virtually from the beginning of their efforts, the woolen mills that manufactured trade blankets aggressively sought out the white trade as well. It is the blankets sold to this clientele that have survived and are pictured in these pages. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Chasing Rainbows by Barry Friedman James H. Collins Gary Diamond Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
|Chapter 1||Wherein We Begin to Weave Our Tale||13|
|Chapter 2||Shear Beauty: The Making of a Pendleton Indian Blanket||43|
|Chapter 3||Trade-Blanket Design Classifications||53|
|Chapter 4||J. Capps and Sons||59|
|Chapter 5||Pendleton Woolen Mills||81|
|Chapter 6||Oregon City Woolen Mills||137|
|Chapter 7||Buell Manufacturing Company||163|
|Chapter 8||Racine Woolen Mills and Shuler and Benninghofen||173|
|Chapter 9||Knight Woolen Mills||199|
|Chapter 10||Cotton Blankets: A Gin-Dandy Yarn||207|
|Chapter 11||Beacon Manufacturing Company||219|
|Chapter 12||Esmond Mills||251|
|Chapter 13||Deep in the Heart of Textiles||261|
|Chapter 14||Labels and Cold Hard Facts||265|
|Chapter 15||Collecting Indian Blankets: Its Symptoms and Treatment||279|
|Chapter 16||Loving Care and Non-Repair||289|
|Glossary of Textile Terms||297|