4 Facts You Never Knew About The History of Waterbeds
This entry was posted on December 6, 2012.
Waterbeds have a long (and often sordid) history. Like the counterculture movement waterbeds would ultimately become the symbol of, Waterbeds from their conception, never had an ordinary standing. So here are 5 facts that you never new about waterbeds.
1. The First Waterbed was Invented in 1833.
It was invented by Scottish physician Neil Arnott to prevent bedsores in invalids. It was known as Dr. Arnott's Hydrostatic Bed for Invalids and it was basically some bath water in a rubber canvas and some extra bedding. The waterbeds took off and were placed in hospitals around the world. In 1871, Mark Twain described them in a church home in Elmira, NY in an article for the
New York Times saying "The water-beds and invalid-chairs at present belonging to the church are always in demand, and never out of service."
2. The Modern Waterbed Was First Described in a Science Fiction Novel.
In fact, it was described in several science fiction novels and by one of the most prolific authors of our time, Robert Heinlein. Like most science fiction novels, Heinlein's stories took place in dystopian futures and were rife with descriptions of futuristic gadgets. However, Heinlein's descriptions of the waterbed were so detailed that Charles Hall was denied a patent for a waterbed in 1968 because Heinlein owned the intellectual property. In Heinlein's Expanded Universe he says ""I designed the waterbed during years as a bed patient in the middle thirties as an attempt to design the perfect hospital bed by one who had spent too damn much time in hospital beds."
3. It was Briefly Called the Pleasure Pit
The history of waterbeds often include some pretty sordid stories so the aptly
named Pleasure Pit was what it was called when Charles C. Hall was peddling waterbeds out of the back of his van. Hall is considered the inventor of the modern waterbed after experimenting with different ways to create furniture that didn't cause so many uncomfortable pressure points. As a design student at San Francisco State University, Hall first attempted to create a chair using vinyl and corn syrup that ended up swallowing you whole when you sat in it. He tried Jell-O next but it just became lumpy and uncomfortable. Finally, he turned to beds and what he created is said to helped conceive an entire generation.
4. Waterbeds Sparked the Specialty Sleep Industry
"Waterbeds changed sleep in America,’” says Hall. “From the conventional side of bedding it was not ‘firmer is better’ but of comfort and having more compliant surfaces. All those new beds that have come out like Tempurpedic and ‘sleep number’ beds – if you read their ads they read like waterbed ads.” Waterbeds were the first foray into innovative sleeping surfaces and created an international conversation about the importance of sleep. The Specialty Sleep
Association, the industry advocacy group, was actually started as the successor organization for the waterbed industry in 1995. While many people assume that the waterbed has slipped into oblivion, softside waterbeds like the Orchid 12" Euro Top Softside Waterbed, which features memory foam, are becoming increasing popular because ultimately the waterbed cannot be beaten in terms of comfort.