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History of Beds

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Two kids playing on mattress
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A bed is a piece of furniture upon which a person may recline or sleep, in many cultures and for for many centuries the bed was considered the most important piece of furniture in the house and a type of status symbol. Beds were used in ancient Egypt as more than a place for sleeping, beds were used as a place to eat meals and entertain socially.

According to A Brief History of Beds, "The earliest beds were shallow chests in which the bedding was placed. The first attempt at a soft basis consisted of ropes stretched across a wooden framework."

The Mattress

A Short History of Mattress Making tells us that "A typical bed of 1600 in its simplest form was a timber frame with rope or leather supports. The mattress was a 'bag' of soft filling which was most commonly straw and sometimes wool that was covered in plain, cheap fabric.

In the mid 18th century, the cover became made of quality linen or cotton, the mattress cane box was shaped or bordered and the fillings available were natural and plenty, including coconut fibre, cotton, wool and horse hair. The mattresses also became tufted or buttoned to hold the fillings and cover together and the edges were stitched.

Iron and steel replaced the past timber frames in the late 19th century. The most expensive beds of 1929 were latex rubber mattresses produced by the very successful 'Dunlopillow'. Pocket spring mattresses were also introduced. These were individual springs sewn into linked fabric bags.

Waterbeds

The first water-filled beds were goatskins filled with water, used in Persia more then 3,600 years ago. In 1873, Sir James Paget at St Bartholomew's Hospital presented a modern waterbed designed by Neil Arnott as a treatment and prevention of pressure ulcers (bed sores). Waterbeds allowed mattress pressure to be evenly distributed over the body. By 1895 a few waterbeds were sold via mail order by the British store, Harrod’s. They looked like, and probably were, very large hot water bottles. Due to lack of suitable materials, the waterbed did not gain widespread use until the 1960s, after the invention of vinyl.

Murphy Bed

Murphy Bed, the bedding idea of 1900 was invented by American William Lawrence Murphy (1876–1959) from San Francisco. The space-saving Murphy Bed folds into a wall closet. William Lawrence Murphy formed the Murphy Bed Company of New York, the second oldest oldest furniture manufacturer in the United States. Murphy patented his "In-A-Dor" bed in 1908, however, he did not trademark the name "Murphy Bed".
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