A “point” blanket (one with short lines of thread stitched into one side, called “points”) is what we now call a Hudson’s Bay blanket. But:
- Hudson’s Bay Company wasn’t the first to introduce the point blanket. Point blankets were commonly used in Europe and by English colonists in America. American colonial militiamen were issued four-point blankets. British troops (“Red coats”) who served in the American Revolutionary War wore Canadian blanket coats.
- Over the years, HBC has introduced colors: khaki and gray during World War I; pastels — rose, sky blue, gold, helio and reseda; deep tones like pine green, caramel, coraline, wild cranberry; Tango (orange) and Sunshine (yellow); and a multistripe in natural browns and grays.
- Originally blankets came as a double, and were TORN apart by the trader! (How’s that for a dramatic business demo!) If buyers only wanted a single, traders cut a small hole in the selvage at the halfway point and tore it, separating along a line of the weave so the ends wouldn’t ravel.
- Point blankets accompanied thousands on the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, Charles Lindbergh on his transatlantic flight in 1927, Richard Byrd to Antarctica in 1928-30 and on the 1953 conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
- HBC never manufactured their own blankets. Like pots, iron tools, guns or beads, woolen blankets were one of their trade goods. In 1780, when HBC began competing with the North West Company, they added blankets as a staple of trade. Thomas Empson of Witney (Oxfordshire, England) was their main supplier but they used several companies when demand was highest.
All this and more comes from the book “The Blanket: An Illustrated History of the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket,” by Harold Tichenor, (Quantum Book, for Hudson’s Bay Company, 2002). Thanks to Charlotte who found it for me!
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