Bed Warmers

Climbing into a cold bed has never been a pleasant experience. The traditional method of dealing with this problem was the warming pan or the hot water bottle. Nineteenth-and early twentieth-century hot water bottles were made of either copper, stoneware, or (later) rubber.

The rise of electricity use in the 1920s prompted manufacturers to experiment with the humble hot water bottle. The Supreme Miracle was a 12-inch tubular element that screwed into an ordinary rubber hot water bottle and heated the water inside. This idea was developed by F. S. Spooner Wates, who also patented an electric bed heater encased in an asbestos tube. His patent was taken up by the British company Rothermel who produced an electric bed warmer with a brown Bakelite case in the shape of a rubber hot water bottle. The flex entered where the stopper would have been and the on/off switch was placed at the neck. Such products were probably best used to heat the bed before getting into it, as they were not grounded.

The first electric blanket appeared in the United Kingdom in 1927. This was the small Thermega heating pad, which had flexible electric heating elements within woolen fabric. Sunbeam was a major manufacturer in the United States. These were relatively expensive items, and electric blankets only became popular during the 1950s and 1960s, thanks to more reliable insulation, thermostatic controls, and developments in flame-proof materials. The British Burco Company, which began by making gas water heaters, started manufacturing electric blankets in the 1950s. It continues to produce them under the Cozee Cumfort brand. Most of these electric blankets were designed to go under the sheets and warm the bed before anyone slept in it, nevertheless the story of the electric blanket setting both bed and sleeper alight did enter popular folklore. The 1960s saw the introduction of electric over blankets designed to stay on all night. They could be washed in an electric washing machine, and the double models featured separate controls for each side of the bed, allowing sleeping partners to choose their own temperature. Although electric blankets are still in production, their popularity has declined due to the rise of central heating and warm duvets.