Sleepy look at history

Pop Culture

January 14, 2001|By Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- The woman in the photo looks sad and tired, with bags under her eyes. The caption reads "Fatigue." In a second photo, though, she is smiling, alert and fresh. This caption reads "Radiance."

The difference? The Beautyrest mattress, claims the advertisement from the 1920s, which suggests: "Ask your mirror about your mattress."

This and about 40 other promotional materials for the Simmons Co.'s Beautyrest mattress are on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History through the end of February.

Atlanta-based Simmons mass-produced the first wire-spring mattress in the 1880s. This year marks the 75th anniversary of its Beautyrest mattress, which uses a system of pocketed wire coils.

Company officials donated Simmons' archives to the Smithsonian in June.

"I think [the people at the museum] were a little surprised," said Don Hoffman, Simmons' senior vice president of marketing. Then "they realized this is an American success story."

Many of the earlier ads for the Beautyrest mattress targeted women and stressed personal beauty, glamour and elegance. But proper sleep could also inspire men to greatness, according to one ad featuring inventor Guglielmo Marconi, the mastermind behind wireless communication.

"All sorts of brilliant ideas have come to people through their sleep," Marconi is quoted as saying.

During the Cold War, one proposed ad that never ran suggested shipping a Beautyrest to Joseph Stalin "in an effort to relieve international tension."

Simmons says it is continuing to adapt to the times, revamping its products and modifying its advertising techniques. And it appears to be working. Its sales are up 20 percent this year, according to Hoffman.

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