Dust Ruffle or No Dust Ruffle……That is the question. If you’re looking for authenticity and historic value, then you have to opt out of the dust ruffle. Back in the 1800’s, one of the main reasons people were attracted to iron beds was the elimination of rodents in their beds because the iron side poles kept mice and small rodents out. So the addition of a dust ruffle would have negated that whole reason. A dust ruffle and it’s gather material would have made it much easier for small mice and rodents to climb into bed.
One of the many things that helped antique iron beds rise to being the most popular form of bed throughout the Victorian period was that the elevated the occupant position, much higher off the ground and away from recurring cold drafts, at the floor level. Insulation on old houses and also heat, were serious issues. So anything in the slightest that could be done to contend with these uncomfortable issues, was welcomed.
What I’ve never been able to understand is that it would have been better from a heating standpoint, for a bed to have a dust ruffle that wouldn’t allow drafts under the bed. At this same period people used bed warmers. They were made of either cooper or brass. Just before a person would turn in for the night, they would fill the bed warmer, which was about a one foot in diameter, with hot coals from the fireplace. They would be place in the bed warmer that resembled a “flying saucer” attached to a long pole. This made it easy for a person to position the bed warmer wherever they would want it and it would do the most good. It’s always baffled me why that Victorian period didn’t embrace dust ruffles for the simple reason a bed warmer could have been placed under the bed and the warmth would have been contained quite a bit more that if drafts were left to blow freely under the bed. Consequently the bed warmer often went in between the spring unit and the feather mattress. I’m surprised there weren’t more tragic fires because of the hot coals against the flammable feather ticking.
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