If you remember when a waterbed was the thing to own, you might be surprised to know they're still on the market

CJ Coombs

Soft side waterbed inside with heating and two water chambers.Photo byPhotographed by Robert Paprstein, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

For those who weren’t born in the 1970s, here’s waterbed defined

Essentially, a waterbed is a mattress that’s filled with water. Make sure you don’t rest on it with any sharp objects. 

Supposedly, waterbeds were used for medical therapies throughout the 1800s. The more current model was patented in 1971 after being invented in San Francisco in 1968 by Charles Hall. He was working on his thesis project at San Francisco State University. Believe it or not, they were initially filled with Jell-O and liquid corn starch and those were a flop. The mattress was intended to relax muscles with the use of heat. He also wasn't as focused on the style of the bed as much as he was looking for the comfort appeal.

I was surprised to see a variety of waterbeds available at Lowe's. They were so popular in the late 70s and into the 80s.

Even during the first half of the 1980s, they were so popular everyone wanted one, and by 1986s, The Atlantic says waterbed sales had taken over 20 percent of the market. (Source.)

When these beds first arrived, you could purchase a hard or soft-sided one. The hard-sided waterbed was a mattress containing water inside a frame of wood and it rested on a plywood platform. The soft-sided waterbed had the mattress filled with water inside a frame lined with foam that was pretty sturdy and the mattress was enclosed in a casing that you would zip up. It sat on a platform and looked like a bed.

These mattresses had one water chamber, and when it was laid on, there was wave motion. If you wanted to turn for comfort, you were riding the wave again. If you wanted it to stop moving, you would have to be still and wait for the motion to end. Models came out later to reduce some of those waves. Depending on how much you want to pay, there are models that take a lot of the movement away now.

Personally, I could never understand why anyone would ever want a free-flowing mattress. There was too much movement. I also recall people having to drain the water out of their beds with a garden hose with one end in the bed and the other out the window. I also remember there being vinyl repair kits on hand for accidental punctures.

Hall was only 24 when he designed the popular waterbed. The vinyl container was filled with water and it came with a device to control the temperature.

An earlier form of the waterbed was invented in 1833 by Neil Arnott who was a Scottish physician. It was called a hydrostatic bed and its intent was to help prevent bedsores in invalid patients. He also developed a water-filled chair intended to prevent seasickness. Arnott also invented the Arnott Ventilator and the Arnott Stove, and he didn't want to patent any of his inventions.

Thanks for reading!

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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