HISTORY OF NATIVE AMERICAN TRADE & CAMP BLANKETS
When the Europeans
arrived and the Westward expansion began, the Native Americans bartered silver jewelry and other valuable items in exchange
for commercially manufactured wool blankets that the settlers brought with them.
The Native people valued these "trade
blankets" because their finer weave made them softer, warmer and more comfortable to wear. And, they were reasonably priced
and readily available at the trading post.
These blankets became more popular and by the late 19th century commercial production
of these trade blankets in America was well on its way.
Five woolen mills produced the greatest number of Indian trade
blankets, borrowing Native American designs and weaving them on jacquard looms for mass production. Racine Woolen Mills, J.
Capps and Son, Buell Manufacturing, Oregon City Woolen Mills and Pendleton Woolen Mills were the most successful blanket makers
of the time.
The trade blankets became integrated into the Native American way of life. They were used in weddings, gift
giving, pow wows, funerals, memorials and as dance prizes. They still hold their place within the Native American culture
today, however Pendleton is the only manufacturer that continues to provide new blankets to the marketplace