History of the Night: Palm Boughs, Pallets, and Hybrids (your mattress)

Posted by Lauren Zimmerman on

It’s bedtime. You pile up palm boughs in the corner of your casa, lie down, and it’s off to dreamland. Sound familiar? Of course not. The year is 3400 B.C and while you’re sleeping on wads of foliage, the pharaohs have figured out that raising the bed onto a pallet is posh.

Mattresses were not always comfortable. In fact, innersprings weren’t even invented until 1865. Since then, beds have been more comfortable than at any point in human history (we’re guessing). Let’s take a quick trip through the chronicles of our sleep surface as we continue our exploration into the History of the Night.

After the palm boughs and pallets, Romans brought some real innovation to the marketplace as they stuffed sacks full of feathers and fur and built the first waterbed. They had no idea that their invention would really take off in the 1980s and later be banned by most American landlords.

During the Renaissance some highfalutin types covered their mattresses with velvet and brocades. Don’t tell us you’ve never experienced the luxury of brocades. Later in the 16th and 17th centuries, Louis XVI reportedly had 413 beds. That’s one mattress for every person in Hatfield Town, Arkansas. Seriously, look it up.

Up until the late 18th century there was a common problem that every person faced — vermin sleeping in your bed. It was common and incurable. Then came cast iron and cotton. Combine these two materials and you have a sleep surface that isn’t as attractive to pests.

Then things got really interesting. In 1883 Joseph P. Leggett developed and patented the first successful spiral steel coil bedspring and formed a business partnership with Cornelius B. Platt, a blacksmith who operated the C.D. Platt Plow Works plant in Carthage, Missouri. From there, the mattress industry took off.

1940s — Futons.

1950s — Foam rubber mattresses.

1960s — Waterbeds (see Romans and landlords). Also, adjustables beds break onto the scene and start raising eyebrows, backs.

1980s — Airbeds.

1990s — The queen begins her reign. For the first time in mattress history, queen sets outsell twin sets.

2012 — Oddly enough, futons are still around.

Haven’t we come a long way? All the way from piling palm boughs in the corner to innersprings, hybrids, synthetic materials, and (of course) futons. Hope you enjoyed this trip through time. Doesn’t it make you really appreciate your comfortable, varment free, high-quality mattress?

Thanks to the Better Sleep Council for the great mattress history timeline.

About Lauren

Lauren Zimmerman has experience in social media, content creation, online community management, and evaluating analytics. She enjoys reading, watching movies, trying new restaurants, and spending time with family and friends. View all articles by Lauren
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