“This piece was brought to my attention by Fred Boschan who found it in an antique store in Pennsylvania. He had been given the family story by the dealer who got it from descendants of the original collection. [Burton] Randall was a medical doctor and officer in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War in 1847. The family’s history said that he’d collected this blanket while stationed in Veracruz. At the time when Fred contacted me, I happened to be in Washington working in the national archives, so I checked the military records and found out, indeed, that Randall had been there in 1847. During his entire military career he had never been closer to the Southwest than Oklahoma and Mexico. You don’t always find a family story confirmed as neatly as this one.” —

Joe Ben Wheat (quoted in Hedlund 1990:58)
The “Randall Sarape,” circa 1847 (University of Colorado Museum 39310; JBW textile ID 54).

Joe Ben sought out early Navajo, Pueblo and Hispanic textiles that had stories about their origins and collection histories. He examined the pieces carefully, charted their physical traits and historic connections, and ultimately refined a timeline for Southwestern textile development. This blanket was the earliest documented Navajo textile that he knew about. There are blanket fragments and some blankets that undoubtedly date earlier, but none have the corroborating evidence of this one.