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New book chronicles Owen family, Beacon

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, November 5, 2001

Spanning almost all of the last century, and charting the intertwined histories of a family, a factory and a Southern community, a new book has just been published, "Beacon Blankets Make Warm Friends," telling the history of the founding Charles D. Owen family and the highly collectible Native American blankets produced by Beacon over much of its 97-year history.

Celebrating the publication of the book, written by Jerry and Kathy Brownstein, members of the Owen family, which now operates a sibling company, Charles D. Owen Mfg., also headquartered here, were the guests of honor at a launch party that attracted more than 200 guests to the media center of the Charles D. Owen High School here.

Along with a history of the company, the book functions as a guide for collectors of the highly prized Beacon blankets in Native American looks, and shows off hundreds of classic patterns in vivid color.

A highlight of the book — and until recently a closely guarded secret — are illustrations created by artist Norman Rockwell for early Beacon product catalogs that feature a young Charles D. Owen Jr. , wrapped in Beacon blankets.

Those who know the feisty chairman and ceo of Charles D. Owen Mfg. — a man of many opinions, all of them strongly held — may be surprised by the emblem of American innocence portrayed then by Rockwell.

Norman Rockwell? Charles D. "Charlie" Owen? It turns out that when Rockwell was a struggling unknown from New England, long before the glory days of the Saturday Evening Post covers, the patriarch of the Owen family took a liking to the young artist. To help him out financially, he commissioned several works by the young Rockwell, many to illustrate product for the annual Beacon blanket catalogs. The Owen family still has many of them, and not long ago Charlie quipped, "Heck, if the textiles business ever goes to hell, I can live off the paintings."

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