Clips of Domestic Economy – pt 4


Today from An Encyclopedia of Domestic Economy by Thomas Webster, published in 1845 in New York, we have some bed and bedding items.

One note –  Being written about 15 years prior, these pieces would not have been new in 1860 and in some areas could be seen as out-of-date.

There are quite a few beds shared in the book ranging from simple to draped or canopied to iron and fold-out beds.


I’m sure one of the most of interest will be this folding bed:

“The folding camp, or tressel bedstead, fig 414, is one of the cheapest made, and has the great convenience of being easily put aside to make room when folded, consisting merely of two frames connected by the sacking. When extended, it is kept open by the head-board, which has two pins that drop into holes in the side rails, with the addition of a foot-board, made in the same manner as the head-board; there is no better bedstead for men servants or young people; and being so moveable, they are easily kept clean, not requiring taking to pieces. They may be had complete for less than [ 1 pound]. If required, nothing would be easier than to add curtains, in the manner of the French bedstead. They are also made sometimes of iron.

Camp bedsteads, to fold in little room, are made sometimes of iron; but the best and most elegant are of hollow brass rods, which are particularly convenient for travelling by land or sea, and are occasionally useful in the house from being easily put away. Those of brass are about twice the price of iron ones. Couches are made on the same principle.”


In the bedroom section, this book details on several pages the types of materials used for bedding or mattresses. Starting on page 296, these include:

Feather beds stuffed with feathers – The author notes some people rub the inside of the ticking with bees wax or a combination of bees wax and soap to help decrease the dust connected with feather beds. He also says the ticking must be as close, thick and stout as possible. Feather beds are softer than the mattresses they often sit on, which follow.

Mattresses “are firmer kids of beds, usually placed under the feather beds, but sometimes preferred to the latter for sleeping upon, as being less soft, and not so relaxing. They consist of a bag of canvass or ticking stuffed with various materials; but as these are not intended to be moved or shaken, they are fixed in their places by packthread put through, and tufts fixed at equal distances: the edge or border of the mattress is formed square. The materials with which mattresses are filled are usually horsehair, wool, flock, millpuff (a kind of coarse wool), chaff, straw, ulva-marina, cocoanut fibre, or coils of elastic wire. Hay and chaff are occasionally employed.”

Descriptions of each are detailed by the author. He also discusses alternate beds being introduced – the French paillasse “a very thick mattress stuffed hard with drawn wheat straw”, an air bed of India rubber invented in 1813 and a “Dr. Arnott’s water bed” intended as invalid furniture.

Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 1:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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