In giving bunkhouse wool a rich Western artistry, Pendleton has fashioned the fabric of America.
Written by Jenn Thornton
Some names, like John Wayne for one glaring example, need no introduction. In the realm of world-famous textiles, Pendleton has woven itself—richly, colorfully, indelibly—into American culture, not unlike Wayne himself. Both is a brand with impeccable Western credentials; how easy it is to picture one of the cowboys Wayne portrayed packing a Pendleton into his bedroll even now.
The story of Pendleton is inseparable from the national story. Its founder Thomas Kay, a boss weaver in England, arrived in Oregon in 1863, established a namesake mill, and with it, the start of a family legacy that he possibly never fully envisioned. But his daughter, Martha Ann “Fannie” Kelly, certainly did. With a passion for the mill business, Fannie was her father’s right-hand and it is her sons who opened the company’s original mill in Pendleton, Oregon in 1909.
For Pendleton, success is a pattern, a signature one, marked by quality, craftsmanship and sixth-generation family ownership. Two of only a handful of woolen mills in the United States, Pendleton credits its longevity to “fulfilling the needs of the American consumer, staying true to its origins and adhering to an uncompromising standard of quality,” notes Linda Parker of Pendleton, adding the company “is proud of its slow fashion approach, weaving beautiful and durable fabrics and blankets that are heirloom quality.” One half of the wool varieties that Pendleton sources for its two Pacific Northwest weaving mills comes domestically and mostly from wool growers that company has worked with since its founding.
One both sees and senses quality in the Pendleton product, not least its coveted blankets. This includes the newest style in the company’s American Indian College Fund collection, Pathway, and the popular National Parks Collection. In 1916, when Pendleton created the first Glacier National Park blanket for the owner of the Northern Pacific Railway, the collection evolved to capture the color and grandeur of America’s treasures. Parker says a portion of the proceeds from the sale of products featuring the National Park blanket’s signature pattern is donated to fund landmark restoration projects in Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks: rehabbing the helix-shaped showcase of the Many Glacier Hotel and to improve the Grand Canyon Train Depot in Grand Canyon Village, which is the park’s “front door” and its most-photographed manmade structure.
Pendleton is a particular fixture in the West, not least because both the company and the region share many values. And it is these values that support the vision of Pendleton. Says Parker: “‘We create quality products that embody craftsmanship, enrich lives, and connect generations.’” This means a new round of work in 2020. Pendleton is threading the needle for more company-inspired, styled-right products, from iconic shirts, sweaters in dramatic patterns and new accessories to bags of all sizes, to cold-weather wear and fresh statement-making blankets in new designs.
To see more of the National Park collection, visit John Wayne Stock & Supply.