With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I have been looking for some products that any dad can use. It didn’t take long before I found Pendleton Woolen Mills. As I started looking into the company, something seemed familiar. I went to the site to see clothes, but I kept finding myself drawn to the blankets. Were these the same wool blankets that covered the beds in my grandparents’ spare room? I didn’t know what to expect when writing this article, but I found a fascinating history.

The business started in 1863 when English immigrant Thomas Kay opened the Thomas Kay Woolen Mills in Salem, Oregon. His daughter, Fannie Kay, became involved in management of the mill, and eventually married retail merchant Charles Pleasant Bishop. Together, they combined their expertise to start what would soon become Pendleton Woolen Mills.

In 1909, the Bishop family took over an abandoned mill in Pendleton, Oregon. This mill had been built to supply the local Native American tribes with blankets. With the construction of a new plant on this site, the Bishops resumed the practice of making fine Native-American robes and blankets, expanding their trade to the tribes of the southwest.

Collars now 15% tighter!

In 1912, Pendleton Woolen Mills opened a second plant in Washougal, Washington. This new plant focused on the production of wool fabrics for use in suits and sportswear. At that time, most sportswear for men also doubled as work shirts and were available only in dull colors. In 1924, Clarence Morton Bishop (son of Charles and Fannie) marketed a new line of men’s sport shirts in a variety of rich colors and patterns, introducing to America the first men’s wool plaid shirt.

Over the next few decades, Pendleton increased their visibility by giving President Harding a blanket while he was on a State Visit (always a good move), sending train cars full of blankets to the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and eventually landing a government contract to manufacture uniforms and blankets for the troops in World War II.

That must be one heavy board.

By the time the war was over, Pendleton was a well known and trusted brand. In 1949 they released their enormously popular 49’er Jacket“>49er jacket for women, and shortly thereafter, the reversible pleated skirt“>skirt. Then in 1962, a band formerly known as The Pendletones released their debut album Surfin’ Safari, as The Beach Boys. On the cover of both the album and the single, members of the band all proudly wear matching Pendleton shirts.

Since then Pendleton has expanded its product line. Sensing a demand for lighter weight clothing that still had their unique style, Pendleton Woolen Mills in 1972 introduced clothing that could be worn comfortably in spring and summer.  Pendleton also started making sweaters.  There’s quite a variety, but allow me to point out that recently Pendleton released a tribute to the original sweater that Jeff Bridges wore in The Big Lebowski.  It’s known simply as The Dude Shawl Cardigan and is available in only Dude approved colors.  It’s not an exact match, but it definitely gives off an impression of complete apathy when worn by the right person.

Destined to keep guests warm for generations to come.

I intended to focus on the clothing in their article, but I kept finding myself looking at the blankets. Having simple tastes, I especially like the National Park series. They still have the same bold colors that Pendleton blankets are known for, but are not overly busy. The Glacier National Park blanket is being displayed by my lovely assistant in the illustration on the right.

The Pendleton Woolen Mills company now has a seven facilities in Oregon, Washington, and Nebraska. It is still owned and operated by the Bishop family, and remain a heavily involved social issues on a local, national, and global scale. For over 100 years, Pendleton has been sponsoring the the Pendleton Roundup, a rodeo held right there in Pendleton, Oregon. Pendleton regularly contributes to the American Indian College Fund, as well as establishing partnerships to raise money for various causes, such as the National Museum of the American Indian, the Fisher House Program, the Men’s Health Network, and the Jack and Jill Rappaport Foundation. Furthermore, Pendleton has developed a line of “Eco-wise” wools, that can be recycled or composted, all the time maintaining their high standards of durability and design.

Pendleton Woolen Mills (Clothing)

Pendleton Woolen Mills (Blankets)