Offbeat: Mattress Program

By Bob Snell - bio | email feedback

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - The past is something Anna Cook knows alot about and something she loves to share with others. At this year's Randolph County Fair, Mrs. Cook shared the history of the government's mattress making program

"The mattress we're looking is 70 years old and it is hand made," said Cook. "This mattress was made right here in Randolph County.

The mattress was the focal point of the antique corner exhibit at the county fair, filled with historic items on loan from residents around the county.

"We were coming out of a depression with a surplus of cotton," said Cook. "The government wanted everyone to sleep on a good mattress, that's where the program came from."

So in 1940 the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the cotton, and the county extension service offered up the help to any family around the country that made less than $400 a year.

It took 50 pounds of cotton to make one mattress," said Cook.  "The government gave each family the cotton, the ticking material, and the needles.  The county extension workers taught the families how to make the mattress and hopefully that family would in turn teach another family."

Just six months later, nearly 1,100,000 cotton mattresses had been hand sewn, more than 50,000 in Arkansas. The government directive in 1940 called for an increase in the health, comfort, and happiness of the American people, in turn providing a more equitable price for the cotton farmer.

"They were trying to bring the communities together and make the communities a better place and that's what they succeeded in doing," said Cook. "Before these cotton matresses, most folks slept on sacks stuffed with corn shucks or hay. It made life better for Americans, that's exactly what it did."

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