The Inventor of the Waterbed Initially Used Jell-O

If you remember the ‘80s, you likely owned or wished you could afford a waterbed. During the height of the popularity of the liquid-filled mattresses, one in five beds sold was a waterbed. It was in the 1960s, however, that inventor Charlie Hall came up with the idea while working on his thesis at San Francisco State University. His idea was to create furniture that could form to the contours of a person's body without creating pressure points. He talked to physical therapists and doctors, and a whirlpool bath came up as a frequently mentioned item about soothing temperature and water. The first thing Hall tried was a chair filled with Jell-O, but it weighed 300 pounds. Next, he tried liquid corn starch. Needless to say, that didn’t work out either. Then he came up with the idea of a large mattress filled with water. The design was patented in 1971 and featured a coil for warming the bed so the water wouldn’t get cold, and it was lined to prevent leaks. It wasn’t long before Charlie was selling his waterbeds to some pretty notable figures, including Hugh Hefner, the Smothers Brothers and Jefferson Airplane. By the late 1980s, the waterbed industry had reached around $2 billion, but the market slowly began to decline. Factors like hard-to-find sheets, waterbeds being more difficult to move than standard beds, the high cost of heating them, wear and tear of their plastic liners, and the fact that many landlords wouldn’t allow waterbeds in their apartments because of the weight sent the waterbed industry on a downward spiral. By 2013, waterbeds accounted for less than 5% of new bed sales.