The History & Evolution of the Mattress

Mattresses have been around for hundreds of years, though the early versions were nothing like the 21st century products that people sleep on today. After people went through the goatskin era and any other periods of time, during which animal skins were the primary bed material, they moved to putting straw, hay, or even wool into large pieces of cloth and sewing the opening shut.

In the 15th century, people continued using straw, but some were forced to use the shucks from peas as their mattress stuffing. Eventually, those who could gather enough feathers slept on mattresses stuffed with goose down. This provided a lot of warmth, though the inner material tended to shift about.


As cotton grew as an agricultural product and as an industry, people were getting their rest on cotton-stuffed mattresses. But they did not get the support they desired until some enterprising individual came up with the box spring. This last development came relatively late in the game (late 1800s).
While all of these developments took place over the course of centuries, and most of them were great improvements over previous mattress types, there are still people who prefer down pillows and even feather beds, especially in the winter. Well into the 20th century, people were either staying with some of the older types of mattresses or going back to them after trying a new product.

As technology began to produce more man-made materials, the mattress industry followed suit, using synthetic material to fill mattresses. One of the true advancements in mattress construction came with this filler, which eliminated the smells from vegetation and feathers in use before this. In addition, the sleeping surface was much more consistent, and for most people, much more comfortable.

Different, Again

Another major change in sleeping comfort came with the explosion of plastics as a product material. Manufacturers used these new plastics to create air mattresses, which could be used for sleep at home, for recreation (in the swimming pool), and for comfortable sleep while camping. As the 20th century went through its final decades, some tried another filler for the plastic mattress – water.

The changes from goatskins and cloth filled with straw took about two thousand years, but anyone who has slept on a mattress of memory foam knows that the changes have been for the good. People are also quite fond of the mattresses that allow each person to adjust for stiffness or softness, according to their needs.

With all of these modern conveniences, it is any wonder that people would take to the outdoors and sleep on the ground or even on an air mattress on the ground. Maybe it is easier to make this decision when you know that you do not have to sleep like that for a long period of time. When you sleep on a goatskin or a straw mattress for a short time, you would be very happy to go back to that memory foam.

Related Posts