A few years ago I had gone antiquing from where I was living in Oxford to the old market town of Witney, England, where I met a very knowledgeable proprietor of one of the many antique shops in town. Being from the US, I did not know the importance of Witney in the world-wide woolen industry, so I was excited to learn about the town’s leadership in making woolen trade blankets for Native Americans since ca. AD 1700, as British trade with the Creek Indians of Middle Georgia is one aspect of my research. This was the first I heard about the “pointing” (stitching) on one edge of the blankets and its meaning in the Indian trade. Plus I even got to see one of these blankets! I had not realized that this favorite object of many Indians and tribes across North America had such a deep history that stretched back so far on the loom of history.
It seems this trade originated with the French weavers in the mid-17th century, but that the weavers of Witney had become major competitors by the end of the century. Earlier variants of the blanket shown above would have been packed on horses by Charleston’s traders and taken – along with pots & pans, cloth, guns & flints, knives & scissors, glass trade beads, rum, and many other European-manufactured goods – along the many Indian trails like the Lower Creek Trading Path, Thom’s Path, & the Okfuskee Path to trading houses set up near major Indian villages throughout the Southeast. Indian hunters and warriors would have come to these trading posts and traded their deerskins and captured Indian slaves for whatever they wanted. A fascinating topic about which more can be read in the book shown above, and at this website – http://www.witneyblanketstory.org.uk/wbp.asp?navigationPage=North%20America