From the cover of the 1917-1918 Beacon blanket catalog

April 13 – November 2, 2019

Beacon Manufacturing Company operated in Swannanoa from 1924 – 2002 and was once the largest blanket manufacturer in the world. Today, many of their beautiful blankets are collector’s items.

Originally located in New Bedford, MA, Beacon Blankets moved its entire operations to Swannanoa in the midst of the Depression under the guidance of the company’s owner Charles D. Owen II. While some derisively referred to this move as “Owen’s Folly,” the company prospered in coming decades. Beacon came to be famous for its use of vibrant colors and the Ombre design process, which added shades of the same color to blanket patterns.

The success of the company was reflected in its high employment of Swannanoa Valley residents. At one point employing as many as 2,200 workers, Beacon transformed Swannanoa into a mill town with company-owned houses and company-sponsored entertainment and sports teams. Many generations of Swannanoa Valley residents worked at the mill until its closure in 2002.

The exhibit highlights several aspects of Beacon’s history, including its controversial use of the term “Indian Design” when advertising its blankets, workers’ striking and union efforts, and the lives and culture of Beacon’s Swannanoa community.

Visit Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00am – 5:00pm or by appointment.


Swannanoa Valley Museum honors Beacon blankets
Mountain Xpress, April 11, 2019 by Thomas Calder

Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center to kick off 30th season
Black Mountain News, April 10, 2019 by Fred McCormick