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Simmons second century

A story of sleep


a story of
sleep
In the beginning, sleep was the
farthest thing from Zalmon Simmons'
mind.
He was a marvelously energetic
businessman who became president
of both the Rock Island Railroad and
the Northwest Telegraph Company;
owned a country store; and served
as mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
In 1870 he bought a local
cheesebox factory for manufacturing
a wood telegraph insulator of his
own design. Sleep entered this little
cheesebox-cum-insulator business
when founder Simmons accepted
the patent for a woven wire
bedspring as payment for a debt
incurred in his store. There was just
one thing wrong with the spring: it
could not be produced economically.
So he puta local inventor to work
on the problem and eventually got
the price down from $5 to 80ยข. The
Simmons Company, as purveyors of
better sleep, was on its way.
It was not long before the retailers
were telling Mr. Simmons, "Why
don't you make bedsteads to go
along with your springs?" As a
company, we have always listened
to the retailer, and Zalmon Simmons
responded with the brass bed. The
brass bed was very durable and, by
the aesthetics of the time, beautiful.
Simmons brass beds, something of
a status symbol, were shipped from
Kenosha to the far corners of the
globe, and were Simmons first big
success.
By the early 1900's, fashions had
changed. The iron foundry bed,
much cheaper and quite as durable,
replaced brass. After World War 1,
the tubular steel bed emerged as
America's standard bedstead.
Through all these changes, Simmons
maintained its industry leadership.
And where, you may ask, was the
mattress all this time?
The answer is, it was mostly
nowhere. As the 1920's began, most
Americans still slept on pads lumpily
stuffed with cotton or hair-little
enough progress from the original
sack-of-leaves. Many attempts had
been made to put greater resilience
into the heart of the mattress but
until Simmons came along, none
had really been successful.
As far back as 1853, a
Poughkeepsie, New York inventor
patented an innerspring mattress but
he was never able to market it. After
the Franco-Prussian War, a German
built an innerspring mattress which
he presented to Bismarck, but that is
as far as his idea went.
The first innerspring mattress with
coils in individual cloth pockets was
patented in 1900 by James Marshall,
a Canadian planing mill operator.
This "Marshall ventilated mattress"
was the grandfather of the Simmons
Beautyrest. It was first manufactured
in 1901, in a tiny one-room shop.
Marshall himself produced the coils
by cranking a machine that looked
like a household meat grinder. The
little business was still struggling
along when Marshall died in 1905,
with no idea that two decades later
his invention would help to create a
revolution in the whole sleep
industry.
The Marshall mattress won some
degree of public acceptance. The
British furnished such ships as the
Titanic, Lusitania and Mauritania
with Marshall mattresses and a few


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