Beacon, America’s Iconic Blanket and Textile Fashion
A storied past deep-rooted in American history and textile manufacturing woven together with the fabric that kept a country warm is the timeless legend of Beacon Manufacturing Company.
Descendents of the Mayflower, members of the Owen family, purchased Beacon Manufacturing of New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1904. Charles D. Owen, Charles D. Owen II, and Charles Owen Dexter embarked in the production of blankets, bathrobes, and house robes woven in cotton flannel with only 20 employees.
Within seven years, Beacon employed over 800 workers and expanded into infant blankets and producing private label goods for other companies, such as J.C. Penney, Sear, Roebuck & Co., and Montgomery Ward. Beacon became the largest blanket manufacturer under one roof in the United States by 1919.
As legend would have it, a new decade of the roaring 20’s delivered the first statement pieces that would become fashion and textile icons, Beacon’s Native American Indian Design Blankets. Collector’s items to this day, Beacon Blankets Make Warm Friends still tugs at the heartstrings of Swannanoa Valley, a community just east of Asheville where Beacon expanded their manufacturing operation in 1923.
By the ’30s Beacon was the largest blanket company in the world, and moved its entire manufacturing facility to this small community in Western North Carolina. Building a village complete with a bank, gas station, grocery store, clothing store, and a church, the company, helped provide for its employees by helping them with company housing at rent for as low as one dollar a month. *** NOTE they had to build a Catholic Church to bring in employees ***
930 of the 2,200 workers volunteered for military service during World War II in 1942, creating jobs for women, which would be inked in American History as Rosie the Riveter types. During the war years, Beacon produced wool and wool/cotton blend blankets for the war effort. By the 1950s the company reverted back to cotton and cotton blends.
The blanket and linen textile giant closed the doors in 2002. Blanket town as Swannanoa was known was in shock. Having employed over 2,000 people, this hit this piece of small hometown USA hard. The iconic building filled with treasured antiques burnt to the ground in 2003, only adding heartache to the community.
Beacon as a brand was one of the first in setting the standard of textiles in the United States, and its designs and ombre effect of patterns were unlike any other. Beacon cotton blankets have always had an excellent reputation of being washable and resistant to the colors’ fading or running, and remains true in their revival of the blanket brand with their cotton, polyester, and acrylic blend.
Reviving the brand and it’s heritage designs that American’s know and love, Beacon opened its doors online and with retailers in 2013. In addition to bringing back the iconic Native American design influenced blankets, the company offers bed linens and antimicrobial bed sheets that are changing the landscape of health and wellness at home and in hospitals across the country.
Beacon is a heritage icon of true grit, an American staple deeply rooted in the heart of our nation.
To keeping friends warm, sharing stories, and living in opportunity,
From all past, present, and future Beacon family and legacy team members.