Sure, you may think that the history of hammocks began when the castaways of Gilligan’s Island needed a place to spend a lazy afternoon when they weren’t focused on getting rescued but this is actually not true. Hammocks really originated about 1,000 years ago!
Where Hammocks Originated
It is suggested that it was the Mayan Indians who were the masterminds behind hammocks. Yes, it is these same brilliant beings who produced the Mayan calender, built exquisite stone palaces and pyramids, were unbelievable astronomers, developed a writing system and created the most essential tool for laying under a shade tree.
These early hammocks were made from tree bark but later on, the Sisal plant began to be used because the fibers of this plant could easily be softened by running it against your skin, resulting in a more desirable material. Believe it or not, using cotton to make rope hammocks like everyone is familiar with today really did not come into play until about 60 years ago.
Hammocks are Introduced to Europe
So, how did hammocks get from the indigenous tribes of Central and South America over to Europe? It is believed that when Columbus arrived in the New World, he was quite intrigued by the multitude of Bohemians spending their days, lounging on these unique pieces of furniture, under giant shade trees. To substitute for the obvious lack of treasure, he took loads of hammocks with him back to Europe. European sailors took a quick liking to these because they were comfortable and practical for sleeping on while out at sea.
Hammocks and the Navy Connection
Canvas cloth began being used to manufacture hammocks by the Europeans which could be where the idea for fabric hammocks came from. Unfortunately, these naval hammocks were not like the comfortable swaying ones you visualize. Sure, they swayed alright, right into one another! They were sweaty, small and extremely cramped as sailors barely had more than a few inches on either side of them as they tried to rest being tossed around the violent sea.
Hammocks as Inmate Beds
Due to their obvious space saving qualities, Britain introduced hammocks as beds for inmates in the 19th century. Originally, they were hung using two large hooks that fastened to brass loop ends. That is, until the inmates quickly discovered that these hooks and rings were fabulous weapons and then they had to be replaced.
It is estimated that in North America alone, nearly 2 million hammocks are sold every year and at least 100 million people in the world use hammocks on a regular basis as their primary bedding or furniture. This doesn’t even include people like me (and probably you) who simply use them to escape their busy lives to read a book, soak up some sun or sleep in the shade.
Today, hammocks are available in endless sizes, styles, colors, etc. Some tie from a tree while others have their own stand. Some are large enough to sleep a few people while others can roll up into a tiny bag to throw in a bag to take to the beach or camping. If you don’t have at least one hammock as part of your outdoor or indoor living space, you are certainly missing out!
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