Anne Morgan, Chair of the Norman Rockwell Museum Board of Trustees, uncovered an interesting piece of Rockwell history during a recent visit to Asheville, North Carolina.
A close friend mentioned that she knew a man named Charles Owen, who had been a Rockwell model as a child. She arranged for Morgan to pay a visit to Owen, whose grandfather had founded the Beacon Blanket Manufacturing Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1920, Beacon Blankets was the largest manufacturer of blankets housed in one facility in the United States, creating cotton, wool and blended blankets, famous for their geometric and Native American designs. The plant was later moved to Swannanoa, North Carolina, between 1933 and 1936.
Norman Rockwell was commissioned by Charles Owen II, to do several paintings and drawings for the company in the early 1920’s—the best known of these illustrations is a painting entitled Ombre Blanket, of an elder seaman whose lap is covered by a Beacon Blanket, showing a sailing ship to his grandson. Charles Owen IV is the model for the young boy in the painting, which hangs in his family room. Mr. Owen also owns a second Rockwell painting of a young boy asleep in a chair, holding a puppy, wrapped in a Beacon design.
The artist Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), known for his paintings of Native Americans, founder and first President of the Taos Society of Artists, also created illustrations for Beacon.
Beacon Blankets, Country Living Magazine