History of the mattress: from its origins to current events

Here are the evolutionary phases explained

For years now the mattress has established itself as an indispensable good and furnishing element present in all homes today. Often, when you move into a new home, the furniture is missing, and the first thing you think about is, without a doubt, "Where do we sleep?". If it is true that it is possible to live, at least for the first few months after moving, without sofas, bedside tables or wardrobes, it is also true that it is unthinkable to spend even just a week without a bed. For us today it is obvious, but it has not always been like this: the mattress, before becoming what we have come to know, underwent numerous changes and went through various evolutionary phases closely linked to the historical phase experienced.


Etymology of mattress

The ancient Romans called it culcita, a word that takes its origin from culeus, literally “sack”. The term culcita was used to indicate both the mattress and the pillow, and consisted of a cloth bag filled with hay, wool or feathers. You will have noticed that it is quite different from today's term, this is because the word we use, which has its origins in the Arabic language, derives from matrah, literally "to throw down", "to throw", used in term for “bedtime”. The spread of the term in the neighboring countries of the European area began thanks to the advent of the Crusades. This is then assimilated by most Western countries, obviously together with variations based on the linguistic canons of the languages. For example, in English, mattress is mattress, in French it is matelas, in German it is matratze and in Polish it becomes materac em>. The Spanish and Portuguese versions instead derive directly from Latin: respectively we find Colchón and Colchão.


The mattress in antiquity

At the origins of the man of Neolithic felt for the first time the need to create a bed that was isolated from the damp ground. Here the first mattress in history was made of dry leaves and piled straw covered with leather, precisely to obtain the desired insulation effect, so as to avoid heat loss and, indeed, protect oneself from the humidity of the ground.

Notable evolutionary differences date back later around 3600 BC in Persia, where it is documented that goat or sheep skins were filled with water to serve the purpose. Obviously this stratagem was devised both for a search for greater comfort and to counteract the dry climate of the area. Most likely the idea comes from the fact that leather water bottles already existed to transport liquids, hence the conversion into a prototype of the water mattress.
About 2 centuries later, in Egypt, they began to use arches made of palm branches, which resemble nets modern slats ed have the characteristic of being raised from the ground, so as to provide protection from elements such as dust, dirt, heat and humidity. Unfortunately they were not the greatest comfort, also considering that the cushions of the time were nothing more than T-shaped wooden headrests with the ends of the upper part curved upwards.


The Dark Ages

In the Middle Ages no great steps forward were recorded under a purely technical discourse. As with the Romans, even in the 1400s it was customary to take cloth bags and fill them with straw, feathers or empty pea pods, to increase the comfort effect. The covering was made of materials such as wool for the middle class and velvet, brocade or silk for the noble class. In the Middle Ages not everyone owned a mattress, it was still a luxury that few could afford.


The modern age

In the 16th and 17th centuries, padding and covering did not undergo major changes, but began to appear the first nets. Until then it was customary to place the mattress on rigid boards, stone surfaces or directly on the ground. The first frames were made of wood, over which rope or leather nets were then woven, aimed at simulating a support structure that was at least elastic.

Only in 1700 did people begin to pad the mattress with wool and cotton, materials that they significantly improve thermal insulation and offer greater comfort than straw and feathers. We hear for the first time about lining, made of linen or cotton. The wooden structures are temporarily replaced with bamboo ones, thus achieving an improvement in terms of stability. Linen and cotton, also thanks to new oceanic explorations, are starting to spread more and more, also thanks to the great success achieved in countries such as Japan and China. Here the padding is made of coconut fiber and horsehair, always accompanied by materials such as cotton and wool.

The mattress began to become a common good in the 17th century, its modern value and the indispensable character thus began their course, up to the present day.

After the first Industrial Revolution, the main energy source becomes steam, so so famous and widespread that it began to be used in the most varied fields of application. In 1824 in England the first air mattress was patented, while Heinrich Westphal, in 1871 in Germany invented the first real own spring mattress.

A couple of years later, in 1973, the English doctor Sir James Paget , founder of modern scientific medical pathology, invents, among other recognized merits, a prototype of water mattress for medical use . Paget was looking for a solution for all those patients suffering from bed sores, and the water mattress he invented seemed to offer a fairly effective solution. From here the concept of the orthopedic mattress begins to take place: the first application in the medical field was introduced in recent years.

In 1900, after the First World War, patents and discoveries did not they stop anymore. In the early 1920s, John Boyd Dunlop used his fabulous knowledge of rubber to create the first latex mattress, presented as luxury product and intended for British ocean liners and the royal family. He is a proponent of the so-called Dunlop method for creating latex foam, as we explained in this article. The process will then be improved by the Talalay brothers, who, through the method of suction of air through the mold and subsequent cooling, will lead to the creation of a more resistant, elastic and breathable latex mattress.

The Christmas Nardello & Figli was born in 1911, close to the First World War, and began its journey as a wool importer from England. If you also want to know the history of our company, click here, where you will find a small summary of what we are and have become over the years.