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Point Blankets.

 

In researching the history of point blankets and some insight into how the point measurements appear in the trade ledgers don't necessarily describe the same size blanket one would find today with the same point markings.

I'm still trying to understand the topic, but close as we can figure -- the value of wool blankets was measured by their weight during the fur trade, rather than being measured by area ( i.e.. 72'' x 90'') as done today. Today, when you purchase according to point bars you buy point bars and area dimensions-- not historically equivalents of blanket sizing. The trade ledgers indicate if just looking for point bars that would have been on a trapper's blankets, you would purchase 2 1/2 or 3 point bars. This becomes more complicated when you study some of the primary historical sources, (such as Osborne Russell's personal purchases) the 2 1/2 and 3 point blankets could be purchased as a "pair". This means one large blanket still woven together as it was shipped from the factory. A 2 1/2 point pair could be completely different dimension and a much larger area single blanket than one would picture using today's point-bar designation.

Ledgers don't show trappers purchasing 5 or 6 point blankets, if the trapper purchase a blanket pair he could have had a very large blanket that was proportional much longer and narrower than today's 5 or 6 point blankets.

Many of the early suppliers East of the Mississippi considered the 3 point blanket (3 1/2 point - available today) as a standard stock item for trade stores in white with black "strips", white with blue "strips", white with grey-pale blue "strips" (these are really rare and issued for only a few years around 1800), 4 points were special order, white with black "shoots" were special order also, per Charles Hanson.

The 3 1/2 point blankets are now getting hard to find today, most use a 4 point for capotes, etc., plus today we are larger in size than our forefathers. But the smaller blanket is something handy in camp or on the trail as a rap or just extra padding.

Years ago Charles Hanson displayed a "triple" which is very rare at the museum, said it was only the second or third time he had ever seen one, thought it maybe the end of a "run" of a batch of wool.

  • NOTE: Other uses of these blankets.

  • The description of a "French knapsack" in the "las artcile" on winter travel in the Northeast? It's a sack 50" high big enough to get the lower part of your bedroll in. It's painted with milk paint to make it water repellent. During travel the blankets and extra cloths are folded inside and completely protected from the weather. I have also found information on outer bags, or envelopes, being used in the Canadian north later in the 19th Century, but haven't documented yet for pre'1840 in the Rockies. The narrative the accompanies these describes them as being essential to sleeping warm in windy areas, implying that they may have been in fairly common use. I suspect that we often don't give enough credit to the versatility of pack covers, "mantis", or wrapper blankets. When we remember that the mountain men usually traveled with large numbers of pack stock, we have to account for the fabrics they used to cover the packs that they had to get into daily for their own gear. Miller's paintings show lots of "man tied" loads at campsites. What all this tells me is that many other horse brigade men didn't ever need to make a bedroll cover specifically, because they always had lots of pack covers available every time the camped, which they could use over and under their beds. Even today, I know a lot of experienced wilderness horse packers who depend only on their manti's for shelter after the mosquitoes thin out so that they no longer need a tent to protect them from the bugs.                                           C. L.

Here's how the trade began with these enterprising gentlemen.

Radisson and Grosseilliers (both born in France) were among the first men to successfully reach the Hudson's Bay where they discovered that the majority of furs came from the northern forests. The newly discovered bay gave the easiest port access to this rich fur area. They traveled to France to obtain support in a major trading venture out of the bay. When no interest was shown in France, Grosseilliers and Radisson traveled  to London to  secure financial support. In 1667 Prince Rupert (cousin of Charles II) showed an interest in the venture. In the next two years ships were dispatched for Hudson's Bay.

A 1725 invoice listing merchandise for a trade company in Green Bay listed 2-point blankets, and a 1766 invoice from a Philadelphia company listed 4-point, 3-point and 2 1/2-point watch coats.  It is generally accepted that the practice of hand-weaving points into blankets for the Hudson's Bay Company, started in 1780 with Thomas Empson, who was the principal supplier of blankets for the HBC.  Point blankets are seen in most of the surviving inventories and invoices from the North West Company, Hudson's Bay Company and many of the Rocky Mountain fur trading companies.

Early's of Witney was founded in 1669 and is still in production. They have been providing high quality wool blankets for the Indian trade from the late 17th or early 18th century.  Receiving their first contract to provide blankets to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1805.  Only difference between an Early's of Witney and a HBC  blanket is the label.  Early's of Witney blankets are twill woven of 100% virgin wool with an extra weight of yarn,  referred to as "Kersey twill".  The wool fibers of these blankets are teased to produce an extra thick nap, then hand-finished.

 

Here's a few items to look for:

 

Any blanket:

 Hudson's Bay "Point" Blanket Labels:

 condition, condition, condition  1890 - present: bears their "coat of arms"
 weight and fullness of weave  last line: "The Seal of Quality"
 ask another's opinion  1920's: "Made in England" added below "coat of arms"
 ask seller about thickness & weight  later: reads "100% Wool"
 check color combinations  1980's: "Laine" added to label
 check size compared to "points"  recent: "CA00234" as last line
 return policy of seller  2000: label reads "Dry clean only"

A Note on Multistripe or Hudson's Bay Pattern Blankets

We received a request for information from a woman who had given her father a modern HBC blanket with four differently colored stripes at either end. He had taken it to a rendezvous whose some Star Chamber committee on authenticity informed him he couldn't use it because it wasn't rendezvous period. It gives me great pleasure to inform all the experts out there that in 1799 the Hudson's Bay Company post at Albany River ordered "Pointed Blankets to be striped Red Blue Green & Yellow" (HBC Records, Section A Class 27, Orders 1799-Goods for Posts. Manitoba Provincial Archives, Winnipeg). For diehards, here are two more: in 1831, York Factory ordered "fine HB striped 3-1/2 blue, green, red & yellow stripes 100," and in 1830, the Columbia district, which included most of HBC's Northwest Coast and it's beaver trapping brigades, ordered "Blankets-Fine HB striped, Blue, Green, Red and yellow stripes" (HBC Records, Microfilm Reel 375, Indent Books 1826-31).                                                                     JAH

MUSEUM OF THE FUR TRADE QUARTERLY

VOLUME 39, NUMBER 1   ISSN 0027-4135  SPRING 2003

The name "Hudson's Bay blanket" is commonly used to describe any point blanket in today's society; example in 1819 Office of Indian Trade order listed 2-1/2 point blankets in three qualities: NW @ $5.85, large extra heavy @ $5.40, and Mackinac @ $4.61+1/4. Different grades of point blankets were determined by variations in size, nap (raised or finished both sides), amount of wool used. Regular blankets were of "ordinary and middle" wool with better quality ones using "fleece and tail" wool. (Montgomery,p.375).

  • North West Company (NW) blanket. American term for a point blanket of superior size, weight and quality.

  • Mackinaw blanket. Canadian term for second quality point blanket of large size but light of weight. (Avis,p.455).

  • Mock Mackinaw blanket. A term for second quality Mackinaw blankets, so defined in 1824 US government order (Hanson,p.6).

  • Hudson Bay blanket. Old term for white blanket with multiple stripes in different colors at each end.

________________________________________________________________________________

  • Here are the colors available and the time periods manufactured.

The French sold "point" blankets in white, blue, red and green, mentioned in supply lists and journals about 1694, also noted in French Louisiana in 1702 lists. North West Co. used French system as did the Americans (found in Revolutionary War records - point blankets being used). Hudson's Bay did not offer "point" blankets until 1780.

COLORS

Body

Stripe

 Color Note

Manufacturer

 

 most typical colors found in fur trade  HBC 1779 until after WW II.

same as above

 same as above

 replaced unpointed blankets  HBC 1786

 "pale grey-blue" 3-1/2 pt only  circa 1810-1830

 "dark green" various orders  circa 1810-1850

same as above

 same as above

 "rose" bar  1871 HBC order 3 pt/ 2-1/2 pt

 after WW II to replace earlier dark green, dark blue and black bar blankets

 same as above

same as above

same as above

 

 

Body

Stripe

Multiple Stripe Blankets

 Manufacturer

 multiple stripe - standard comb. * #1

 HBC 1850  and used today

 * #1

 see A Note on Multistripe

 * #1

 

 * #1

 

 

 

 multiple stripe - 1820s comb. * #2

 HBC before 1820 - ref as early

* #2

  as 1762 and possibly earlier.

* #2

 

* #2

 

 

 

 multiple stripe - 1830s comb. * #3

 HBC 1830s

 

* #3

 

* #3

 

 

 

 

 multiple stripe - 1840s-50s comb. * #4

 HBC 1840s-1850s

* #4

 

 

* #4

 

 

 

 "pale grey-blue" 3-1/2 pt only  brought back in 1970 & 1971

 

Solid body with black stripe

 

 "red"

 circa 1800s-present

 "green"

 old French color 1850s

 "indigo blue"

 circa 1820-pre., French color

 "light blue"

 HBC  circa 1830s-present

 "gentianella" a medium blue

 circa 1830s-1870s

 

 "brown"

 AFC  circa 1834-present

 "orange"

 HBC  circa 1897-1926

 

 "purple"

 HBC-Queen Elizabeth II blanket

 "khaki"

 HBC 1900 during Boer War

 

 "grey"

see "khaki"

 "camel" listed as "tan" 1933 ad

 circa 1935

 "pastels" sky blue, gold, rose, helio(called orchid), reseda (Nile green).

 HBC 1929

 "pastels" pine green, wild cranberry, coraline.

 HBC 1936

 "pastels" highland heather.

 HBC 1937

 

 

  • It seems that everyone has an opinion on the size of the "point" blanket, they very quit a bit when reading the measurements of different folk's blankets and what they are referred to it for number of points. We have seen the HBC 4 point blanket shown from 68" X 86" to 76" X 94", these blankets had to either shrink or stretch according to Hudson's Bay Company advertising literature stating a 4 pt blank at 72" X 90". The only French blanket size found by researchers has been a "two point" measuring 59" x 48" with a weight of 3 lb. 7 oz. (Brain,p.298). 

  • The 'point' system has been a point of discussion as to when first started by researchers for years, an article written in 1935 did not help, found in "The Beaver" magazine - stated, "the 'point' on the blanket, in its present standardized form is comparatively modern, being introduced in 1850. Prior to that date blankets for Hudson's Bay Company were made with the bar, a 'point', on his product to show the size and weight. These colors were in different coloured wools and usually about one inch long".(Mackay,p.46). Office of Indian Trade instructions in 1809 stated the points should be as long as a finger (three or four inches). Points today are five or more inches long. (Hanson,p.7).

To the Label page

To the News page

  • Here are measurements for the different "point" blankets and weights issued by their companies and our government.

 U.S. Office of Indian Trade

 American Fur Company

1809

size

"point"

weight

63" x 77-1/2"

(3-1/2) "point"

n/a

54" x 70-1/2"

(3) "point"

 n/a

46" x 62"

(2-1/2) "point"

 n/a

43" x 53"

(2) "point"

 n/a

41-1/2" x 50"

(1-1/2) "point"

 n/a

39-1/2" x 43"

(1) "point"

 n/a

1840

size

"point"

weight

60" x 74"

(3) "point"

 n/a

52" x 66"

(2-1/2) "point"

 n/a

56" x 66"

(2) "point"

 n/a

36" x 50"

(1-1/2) "point"

 n/a

32" x 46"

(1) "point"

 n/a

 

 

 Hudson's Bay Company

 Hudson's Bay Company

1838

size

"point"

weight

70" x 86"

(4) "point"

n/a

6 2" x 78"

(3-1/2) "point"

 n/a

56" x 66"

(3) "point"

 n/a

56" x 66"

(2-1/2) "point"

 n/a

50" x 60"

(2) "point"

 n/a

38" x 50"

(1-1/2) "point"

 n/a

1850

size

"point"

weight

100" x 108"

(8) "point"

 9.75 lbs.

90" x 98"

(6-1/2) "point"

 7.75 lbs.

86" x 96"

(6) "point"

 7.50 lbs.

74" x 96"

(4-1/2) "point"

 6.75 lbs.

72" x 90"

(4) "point"

6.50 lbs.

63" x 80"

(3-1/2) "point"

 5.75 lbs.

61" x 74"

(3) "point"

5.50 lbs.

56" x 66"

(2-1/2) "point"

 4.75 lbs.

50" x 60"

(2) "point"

4.50 lbs.

38" x 51"

(1-1/2) "point"

 3.75 lbs.

 

 Early's of Witney Company

 Early's of Witney Company

1900

size

"point"

weight

72" x 90"

(4) "point"

n/a

6 3" x 81"

(3-1/2) "point"

 n/a

60" x 72"

(3) "point"

 n/a

50" x 66"

(2-1/2) "point"

 n/a

42" x 57"

(2) "point"

 n/a

36" x 51"

(1-1/2) "point"

 n/a

1950

size

"point"

weight

90" x 100"

(6) "point"

8 lbs.

80" x 95"

(5) "point"

7 lbs.

72" x 90"

(4) "point"

6 lbs.

60" x 90"

(3-1/2) "point"

5 lbs.

42" x 60"

(1-1/2) "point"

4 lbs.

 

 

Point assignment was not absolutely standard as was weight of blankets from the manufacturers because of the nature of the shrinkage process, they were more of an approximation of an intended standard size and weight.

 

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