Sunday, April 14, 2013

"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel

until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."  ~ Lyn Yutang

That quote is from a prolific Chinese writer who lived from 1895-1976.  I open with that because it seems that the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius described the first pillow:  "With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow--I have still joy in the midst of these things."

The earliest historical record is from about 7000 BCE in the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia (located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers - where Iraq is today).
These ancient pillows were not at all like our pillows today, however. They were hard - usually made of stone, as is the one in the above picture which was found on an archaeological dig in Egypt. The ancient Chinese also used pillows constructed of stone or wood, but they always decorated them somehow. Asian cultures believed that soft pillows actually stole energy from your body while you slept. That was why they came up with such elaborate hard pillows.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used pillows that were more similar to what many of us think of today when we hear the word "pillow." These pillows were made of cloth and stuffed with feathers, reeds, or straw. They were often embroidered, and great prestige was given to the highly skilled pillow maker/decorator.

In the Middle Ages, pillows became status symbols and were mostly reserved for the upper classes. (Once again...the upper class takes the upper hand...or head!)  In fact, when Henry VIII was king of England, he banned the use of pillows by anyone except pregnant women (and himself, I think). Most men didn't want to use pillows anyway because pillow use was seen as a sign of weakness.

The Industrial Revolution made the pillow acceptable for everyone and for everywhere...from bed to chair.  In 1897, Sears offered 63 styles of pillows and fillings, with prices ranging from 45 cents to $6.10, and in today's dollars that is $12.22 to $165.69.  I have seen pillows online in the $400-$500 range so I guess that is really not outlandish. 

Anyone who has been to my shop knows that I  pillows.  From the day I opened over 2 decades ago, I have had pillows.  It does seem like every little shop and big box carry pillows now, but I always try to find pillows made from old sweaters...
or a pop of color...
or quilted...
or just pretty...
Some other tidbits about pillows...early Hollywood filmmakers used pillow fights on screen to "stir emotions"...the amount of feathers flying represented the "degree of conflict".  Interior designers used to be called "pillow puffers"!  And, the average lifespan of a feather pillow is 8 to 10 years, down pillows average 5 to 10 years, and polyester, 6 months to 2 years.

Hopefully, your pillow or pillows provide comfort to you...

"Humor to a man is like a feather pillow.  It is filled with what is easy to get but gives great comfort."
     ~Irish proverb



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