We people don’t always associate American style with iron beds. One of the main reasons is that when people initially think of them they think of England and the Victorian Era. It’s because our history in this country was still at it’s infancy when England’s had already been going strong for some 1500 years.
But, in fact, our beds were being made at the same time England’s foundries were producing theirs.
To the novice eye……..all beds look the same. Not so. There is a distinctive difference between the beds being produced in England during the Victorian Era and those being produced in the small independently owned foundries in this country at the same exact time.
The difference was primarily due to the materials that were being used and the manner in which the beds were being built.
The materials, although similar, were vastly different. Hence the survival and condition of those beds made here and in England. The iron that we used in pouring the castings on American beds was far superior to the iron being used to pour castings on those in England. The Pittsburgh steel mills were producing a far better quality of iron ore than England’s. It was stronger with less alloy mixtures. The tubing being used, that was being produced in the Pittsburgh mills, was a thick wall tubing that was much stronger and more rigid. Tubing being produced and used in England on their beds was a much thinner tube who’s seams tended to split and open over the years…..especially if they were exposed to any undue moisture.
I’ve actually had beds that we had to bake off the old finishes in an oven, before it was sandblasted. In some instances I’ve seen some beds from England completely melt and come apart. It’s because the castings they poured were with a mixture of metals that were strong like the iron ore we poured our beds with. Their metal that was poured into their castings didn’t require the hot temperatures ours did to pour.
English beds had a distinctive formal look to them. Our beds had much more fluid designs, with curves and scrolls. The designs on our beds were strongly influenced by French Style. They were much more feminine in their shapes and interiors. It is near impossible to look at an English bed and think of it as feminine and sexy. Yet the beds that were made in this country during the 1800’s were exactly that…….feminine and sexy.
When we talk about American style beds, we think of a nation that was growing in leaps and bounds, like a young child learning to walk. We were closing in on the Industrial Revolution and the production of everything in this country, iron beds included, was being swept up in the growing trend of “mass production”. “One of a kind” craftsmanship was becoming a thing of the past, both here and abroad. It wouldn’t be long before those beautiful flowing designs our beds were produced in, would be replaced with stronger looking geometric Austere designs. Modernism was taking hold.
But for that brief 100 year span that beds were “king”………. we can definitely say……none were as good as those being produced here in the good old USA.
I hope you’ve found this blog informative . I invite you to revisit my website
to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.
I also invite you to take a look at our company Face Book page for multiple photo albums on Custom Finishes, Canopy Conversions and a comprehensive “Before & After” King Conversions album.