A Compressed History of the Mattress

Many people think of the mattress as a relatively new invention, but even primitive man found ways to try to sleep comfortably at night. Here, we explore a compressed history of bedding and the mattress.

The Early Years

In the Neolithic period 10,000 years ago, primitive beds and mattresses were used. The beds were actually raised in order to stay off of the ground and avoid pests. These mattresses were made of leaves, straw, and grass and covered by animal skins. 

The Romans

While Persians used water-filled goat skins to sleep on and Egyptians utilized palm leaves in heaps, the Romans designed mattresses out of bags of cloth. They stuffed these with wool, reeds, or hay. If they were particularly wealthy, they filled the cloth with feathers and decorated the bed with bronze, silver, or gold.

The Renaissance

The 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries saw mattresses covered in velvets, silks, and brocades. People would stuff the mattresses made out of coarse ticks with shucks from peas, straw, or feathers if they were wealthy.

The 18th Century

This century saw mattresses fill with wool or cotton and start to take on the box shape we recognize today. Fillings started to include horsehair and coconut fiber. Button attachments also become popular to use to attach the mattress material to the stuffing.

The 19th Century

Cotton mattresses become more popular and kept the sleeping space cleaner. In 1857, first steel coil springs were used in chair seats, and these were finally applied to mattresses in 1865 with the innerspring mattress following in 1871. Waterbed designs also become popular.

The 20th Century

The box spring is finally invented, which made mattresses smoother and more comfortable. Innerspring mattresses become more popular, and pocket spring mattresses are developed. In the 1940s, the U.S. is introduced to futons for the first time. Foam rubber mattresses are popular in the 1950s while the 1960s saw a gain in waterbed use. Air mattresses appear in the 1980s while spacious options are popular in the 1990s. In 1999, the queen-size mattress became the most popular mattress of choice in the U.S.

Modern Bedding

The 2000s and beyond have seen a rise in memory-type elements to the modern mattress. There are many waterbeds, air beds, and other technologically advanced options that keep consumers happy. The designs are nearly limitless, allowing people to sleep however they feel is most comfortable.

While your mattress today might be considered a modern invention, it is one that has been fine-tuned for over 10,000 years. Who knows what might be around the corner for this important piece of furniture that humans spend so much of their time using?


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