A box bed in Austria. Photocredit: Wolfgang Sauber/Wikimedia Commons.
For much of human history, privacy during bedtime was an alien concept.
Many poor families lived in small houses, where there was only one or two rooms, the larger of which functioned as bedroom and living room both shared by every occupant of the house, including any guests. Even in large houses and palaces, it was not uncommon for servants to sleep in the same room as the master’s.
When King Henry V bedded Catherine of Valois, writes Bill Bryson both his steward and chamberlain were present in the room. In such circumstances, bed curtains provided a little privacy.
But if you wanted true privacy, you had to sleep in a box bed. In many rural homes in Scotland, France and parts of Netherlands and UK, people slept in box beds, which were essentially large wooden cupboards with a bed inside and doors to shut others out.
Some box beds were free-standing furniture; others were built into recesses and attached to the structure of the house. Instead of door panels, some were equipped with curtains, which when drawn across created a nice and cozy, semi-private cabin.
Aside from privacy, the small enclosed space of the box bed trapped body heat keeping the sleeping person warm during winter. It’s alsopossible that the beds offered some degree of protection against intruders, especially wolves and other animals, that might have entered the house.
It has been suggested that peasants kept their children inside box beds while they went to work in the fields. According to the Encyclopedia of Cottage, Farmhouse and Villa Architecture and Furniture, first published in 1833, many box beds had “a shelf, and sometimes two, fixed to the inside of the bottom of the bed, just above the bedclothes; and sometimes there is one at top, close under the roof.
There are also sometimes one or two shelves against the back of the bed; so that this piece of furniture no only serves as a bed, but as a wardrobe and linen chest.
The encyclopedia entry continues: “In some parts of the country the bed doors fix within by bolts, or have a lock to fasten them on the outside; so that a person going to bed, with all his treasure round him on the surrounding shelves, may secure it while he is asleep at night, or going out to work in the daytime, by bolting or locking the doors.
They eventually became a fashionable piece of furniture, and even larger houses with multiple bedrooms and no pressing need for privacy began to have them. Many 18th century cabinet-makers designed secret box-beds disguised as wardrobes or sideboards, or hidden behind rows of bookshelves and drawers.
Box-beds fell out of use starting from the 19th century with rising concerns for hygiene and stale air, but in many parts in Scotland, the practice of sleeping in box beds continued well into the 1900s.
When it comes to reliable products, they don’t come more hardy than Zippo lighters, a device so insanely well made that the company that makes them guarantee to repair it for free, forever.
Basically, if you ever break a Zippo lighter (a considerable feat in of itself) Zippo will repair and/replace it free of charge, a guarantee that the company has had in place almost since the day the company was founded.
George G. Blaisdell invented the Zippo lighter in 1932, and got his idea after discovering a large and bulky Austrian made pocket lighter. Blaisdell was an oil engineer who saw a audience for a good looking lighter that would function even in windy conditions.
He produced the first Zippo lighter in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
And yes, before anyone asks, this guarantee still applies to lighters from 70 years ago. As noted on their own website:
“Whether a lighter is five years, 25 years, or 50 years old, it will serve as a dependable source of flame for years to come. We guarantee it.”
To date there has never been a known case of Zippo ever charging for a repair, hell, this guy sent Zippo his 53 year old lighter and they sent it back repaired with money for the stamps he’d used to post it.
How many companies can you name who’d repair a product older than 70% of the population and then refuse to ask for payment for doing so?
That’s not a sarcastic question by the way, we’re genuinely curious if there’s another company out there this awesome because we want to write about them.
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Before the invention of hair dryers, women would often attach hoses to the exhaust ends of vacuum cleaners to blow-dry their hair.
A stylist uses a freestanding dryer to blow dry a client’s hair with controlled precision at the Hairdressing Fair of Fashion in London, 1929. (Puttnam /Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
This peculiar device, in the collection of the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, looks like a tiny gas chamber a movie villain would use.
Throw in your enemy—in this case, a small innocent canary—close the hatch, turn open the valve to let in poisonous gas from the cylinder above, and then laugh manically as the bird suffocates and dies.
In reality, it’s the opposite. This device is used not to kill canaries, but to revive them. The cylinder attached to the top of the metal box contains life giving oxygen.
They are known as Canary Resuscitators. Coal miners used to go down to work carrying canaries with them in glass chambers such as these.
Underground mines can contain potentially deadly gases such as carbon monoxide that can form during an accident such as fire or an explosion.
The colorless gas is equally deadly to both humans and canaries alike, but canaries are much more susceptible to the gas, and react more quickly and visibly than humans do, thus alerting miners to the presence of the poisonous gas.
When a disaster strikes inside a mine, rescue workers would descend into the mine carrying a canary in a Resuscitator.
The glass and metal box has a circular open door in the front to let air in, but a grill prevents the canary from escaping.
If there is carbon monoxide in the air, the canary would show signs of distress. It would start swaying noticeably on its perch and eventually fall of it.
If the canary loses consciousness, the door to the box would be closed and the valve opened, allowing oxygen from the tank on top to be released and revive the canary.
The miners would then evacuate the danger area.
Full of gas: The world’s longest aircraft – part airship, plane and helicopter – has been unveiled in Cardington, Bedfordshire.
It will be used for surveillance and aid missions… and resembles something very familiar. The 300ft-long ‘airship’ unveiled in Britain is the world’s longest aircraft.
Known as the HAV304, aircraft is being displayed at a Hangar in Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.
It is 302ft (91m) long making it 60ft (18m) longer than the biggest airliners.
It can stay in the air for 3 weeks and will be vital to delivering humanitarian aid.
Its funders include Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson.
The aircraft is 70 per cent more environmentally friendly than a cargo plane and doesn’t need a runway to take off.