over French blankets convinced many Indian tribes to trade with the
Additionally, the thickness or weight of the blanket might also vary from lightweight to heavyweight. Points (black lines stitched, woven or died into one corner of the blanket) were assigned based on the weight and size of the blanket. One point was given to the smallest blankets, whereas the largest blankets were assigned four points. There was no standardization of sizes and a 2 point blanket from one manufacturer might not be equivalent to that of another manufacturer. In general, the size and weight of point blankets would be roughly equivalent to those shown in the following table.
During the 1800's, as well as during earlier periods, blankets were woven as a pair, with one side in common. They were then sold as a pair, or could be split apart if the customer desired.
The number of blankets, and the size and colors taken to rendezvous varied greatly from year to year. The following table shows a general distribution of colors and sizes of blankets taken as determined from available rendezvous inventories. The costs given are St. Louis prices, actual prices paid in the mountains would have been considerably higher. Traditionally, in the wilderness, a blanket sold for one beaver skin per point, or three beaver skins for a 3-Point blanket.
From the above table it can be seen
that white blankets dominate the trade, followed by green scarlet and
white blanket with the candi-stripes or multi-stripes of red/blue/yellow
is mainly an early 1800's and later blanket. The earliest reference
that anyone has so far found for this type of blanket is 1795. So it is
generally considered a western
So what did a red blanket look like? Do modern Hudson's Bay or Whitney blankets look anything like the blankets traded in the early 1800's. Karl Bodmer captured the appearance of some of these trade blankets while painting Indians during Prince Maximilian's expedition up the Missouri River in 1833-34. Click on the thumbnails below for a larger image showing the blankets.
A young Kutenai dressed in the fashion of the Mandans and Minnetarees. He wears two white blankets, one with a single broad blue stripe along the edge, the other with a pattern of broad and narrow stripes along an edge. This particular individual also wears glass beads in his hair and brass trade rings on his fingers. There appear to be brass buttons attached to the ends of his braids.
For more information on trade blankets see:
The Blanket: An Illustrated History of the Hudson's Bay Point Blanket