According to the Trade Cloth Handbook by Carolyn Corey, trade cloth of various types started to make its way to the Americas in the early 1600’s as a trade good with the Native population to exchange for furs that were in demand back in Europe. The wool was primarily distributed by the fur companies who had trading posts throughout the colonies. There were many variations of trade wool that were distributed in the Americas. The wool with decoration at the selvage edge was of particularly high demand to Native people who were attracted to the aesthetic qualities of the fabric. This edge falls into two categories “saved list” which is white at the edge as a result of the vat dying process that resists the dye and “fancy list” also known as “rainbow list” which was an edge of various multi-color stripes. Trade wool was manufactured in Europe and primarily in the countries of England, Holland, Germany and France.
“Fancy List” trade cloth is first documented to have appeared in the United States at Fort Union on the North Dakota/Montana border as early as 1834, it is estimated that this cloth was not as common as saved list because it was a more expensive cloth to the vat dyed cloth which the predecessor to rainbow list. Corey publishes a letter regarding rainbow list from a trading post distributor in her Trade Cloth Handbook which read as follows.
“A letter written 29 Sep 1913 to an Indian Trader in Lawton OK from NYC states that…”You can tell your Indians that they cannot get any more of the regular FANCY LISTE Indian cloth. The original maker has quit the business and no one else will take it up. In the same mail with your letter came 2 each and ---2 more pieces of the dk. blue. One from Gray Horse and one from Fairfax. Sent sample piece to Pawhuska and has re order for 6 pieces. All the traders say the Indians do not like this cloth so well, but will buy it if they cannot get the other. Yours Davidson”
Many variations of rainbow list cloth have come and gone from the market since the first rainbow list arrived at Fort Union. Each list was unique to the manufacturer and considered their makers mark. Teton Trade Cloth has attempted to make a high-quality trade cloth that meets the high standards of today’s artists that respects the deep and rich tradition of trade cloth while at the same time, providing new and innovative colors and unique selvage edges that inspire artists to create heirloom quality clothing articles.
The History of Teton Trade Cloth
Teton Trade Cloth was started by Rich Shelton, a landscape construction professional from Austin TX. and Craig Jones, an industrial manufacturing and distribution management professional from West Palm Beach, FL. The idea for the business came to Rich and Craig while on a trip with friends to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. During a conversation one night about their mutual passion for great materials, they started to discuss trade cloth, and both believed that wholesalers and consumers were ready for a reboot of the current offerings in the market. Their goal was to provide the best value trade cloth to artists who were looking for a premium product to use in the making of their creations. They set out on a long and extensive process to find a manufacturer who could meet the specifications and was willing to take on this niche project. After an extensive search and vetting process, they found a manufacturer for their 100% wool, 20 ounce, tight weave broadcloth. Rich and Craig designed a signature 10 band edge for their first production run in colors of Red, Navy, Black and Green. They envision offering unique selvage edges and colors on future orders as well as unique one of a kind wool for organizations, native designers, and trading posts.