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Volume Three, Number One

Pendleton Blankets, Robes & Shawls

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Commemorative Blankets

--Harding Shawl--

Portland, Oregon -- Special blankets have been created from time to time by Pendleton in honor of great events or personalities of the West. One of the most famous of these is the Harding shawl.

In the spring of 1923 the Old Oregon Trail was dedicated as a new transcontinental highway at special ceremonies at Meacham, Oregon, high on the summit of the Blue Mountains. This famous route had just been improved from the beginning of the trail at Leavenworth, Kansas, to the end in the valleys of Western Oregon.

Formal dedication was made by President Harding during a tour of the West Coast. In recognition of the event, tribal chiefs presented Mrs. Harding with a special blanket produced by the Pendleton Woolen Mills. The pattern was a new one of great beauty and has since become popularly known as the Harding design. The original presentation shawl was put on permanent display at the Harding Memorial at Marion, Ohio.

--Chief Joseph Robe--

By 1877 tense feelings grew over the treaties of 1863 which called for the removal of the Nez Perce from their home country. Provocative acts by settlers caused some of the more hotblooded Nez Perce to break loose and attack settlements. In the resulting war, the soldiers were defeated in several engagements.

Chief Joseph led his tribe through one of the most brilliant retreats in military history, from the Wallowa Valley into Montana to within 50 miles of the Canadian border. Despite the odds, he marched his band of mostly women and children over 1800 miles in 75 days and fought 11 engagements, five of which were pitched battles. He won three, tied one and lost one.

Then, the tired chief found winter and the U.S. troops closing around him. He surrendered on October 5, 1877. The famous warrior said at that surrender, "It is cold and we have no blankets." These dramatic words express vividly the important role that the blanket played in the American Indian's daily life.

In his honor, Pendleton created the Chief Joseph blanket. It is woven with designs symbolizing Indian conceptions of strength and bravery so characteristic of the great chief whose courage and determination won him such great respect in peace as well as war.

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This story is only part of the front page story. The research used in this Special Edition was provided by the Pendleton Woolen Mills home office in Portland, Oregon. The editor offers grateful acknowledgements to Mike Harrell, archivist. Stories without specific references were edited from in-house publications published by Pendleton Woolen Mills spanning the years of 1915 to 1993. All photos and artwork used in this Special Edition remain the property of Pendleton Woolen Mills and are used here with permission. Reprint rights of this newspaper are retained by the Historical Gazette.

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Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher

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Historical Gazette
Published in Portland, Oregon
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