Art, Articles, Education, Musings, Rambliings, Uncategorized

The History of the Bed


Behold! The bed of the future. Look at its sleek design and ask yourself, what would make the sleeping experience more comfortable than it already is? An air mattress perhaps or a water-bed? Or do you prefer memory foam or an egg crate on top of a mattress? The futuristic design of the bed above has me asking these sorts of questions and wondering about the history of the bed and the mattress. According to Wikipedia’s entry for mattress the first mattresses were made of animal skins piled as high as possible. It seems that even ancient men and women preferred to sleep well away from things that go crawling around in the dark.

The poor of ancient Egypt slept on palm fronds also piled as high as possible while their social betters slept on wooden frames above the ground as early as 3000 BC. Their distant neighbors the Persians slept on goat skins filled with water around the same time. I could find no note of whether or not the goat skin water-bed were for the privileged or for the masses however but it was not for lack of trying!

The Greeks slept on what we now call charpoys.

Charpoy is a term that originated in the Indian subcontinent where charpoys are still used by the some of the masses both aesthetically and functionally. Charpoys make gret coffee tables and chairs as well. But we must arrive in Rome to find beds stuffed with grasses and other natural substances. The wealthy of Rome in the twilight of the republic had bags of cloth stuffed with feathers but the average roman bed was stuffed with straw, reeds or wool if they were fortunate enough to be able to afford wool that would not by necessity need to be woven into cloth. Also, it seems Romans had an obsession with height that included stairs leading to the bed, so it may very well be that some romans slept in beds that looked similar to this monstrosity but in all likelihood it would simply have been an elevated platform.

 Wikipedia also states that in the Carolingian period, beds were higher at the head than at the foot so that the body was held in a sloping position and this continued until the 13th century in France. Luxury had increased in the Western world by this time and bedsteads were made of wood decorated, inlaid, carved and painted with ornamentation. They also used folding beds, which served as couches by day and had cushions covered with silk laid upon leather for the wealthy.After this, researchers begin to find records of highly prized feather beds being passed down thru families as bequests and by the fifteenth century we have the fully formed hanging draperies surrounding beds that are still seen in Europe’s old castles. The hey day of these kinds of beds eventually came in the 17th century with the sumptuous beds of Louis the XVI the Sun King. But for the masses of most of the world, a cloth bag stuffed with wool was as good as it got but it might be laid upon a four-poster bed for the middle classes from the 17th thru the 19th century.

I am going to presume that in the 21st century my readers all know what a modern bed looks like. They come outfitted with a box spring to lay the mattress on and a frame for the box spring to sit on, elevating the bed about two to three feet off the floor. Unless of course your sleeping on one of the futuristic beds like the one pictured at the beginning of this article. But all this history makes me wonder why there have been no major revolutions in the history of the bed. I find it fascinating that people still sleep on charpoys thousands of years after Alexander the Great, and I also find it interesting that the water-bed was not a modern invention.

I’ve had all kinds of beds. I have had a water-bed, a canopy bed, a sleigh bed, a futon, a futon mattress without the frame, a ‘normal bed’ with headboard, and I’ve had curtains surrounding my bed suspended from the ceiling. I still love the curtain concept and will most likely do that again in my future. All you need are curtain rods and some curtain sheers if you like that look. I don’t think I would go for heavier drapes though. Too medieval for me. But what about you? How do you sleep and what kind of bed is your favorite?

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