Hammocks - a short history
Hammocks - a short history

A Short History of Hammocks

Some people believe that the Hammock was first invented in Athens by the statesman Alcibiades (c.450-404 BC), a student of the famous Greek philosopher Socrates. However, it appears that the use of Hammocks for sleeping in was not widely adopted by the ancient Greek culture, in fact it was the indigenous tribes of the Caribbean Islands and Central America that were the first to incorporate the Hammock as essential item in their day to day life over 1000 years ago.

Although we are unsure of exactly which tribe or cultural group did invent the hammock we do know that it was rapidly adopted by every culture from Southern Mexico all the way down to Northern Brazil and has been an integral part of their life style ever since. For anyone who has visited this region it quickly become apparent why the hammock is an excellent choice for sleeping during the night and relaxing away the day, being suspended off the ground provides better air circulation keeping the body cool and dry in a hot tropical environment and has the added benefit of protection from insects, scorpions, spiders and snakes.
 
Indians hand weaving Mayan Hammocks
 
These traditional style hammocks were first introduced to Europeans when Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from a Caribbean voyage in the 1400’s. it did not take long for those early sea fairing explorers to discover the benefits of using hammocks on board ships. In 1590 hammocks were formally adopted for use by the British Royal Navy. Since a slung hammock moves in concert with the motion of the vessel, the occupant is not at a risk of being thrown onto the floor during swells or rough seas, and a hammock is easily washed clean to stop the spread of infectious disease and bug infestations. Many sailors became so attached to their hammocks they would take and use them during shore leave and in this way the concept of the hammock was rapidly introduced to many ports around the world. Even today it is not unusual to see hammocks hung between the mast and the forestay on recreational sail boats or hung by the 100’s on ferry boats traversing the Amazon river.
 
Hammocks on an Amazon Ferry Boat
 
These traditional hammocks do vary a little from region to region, in Mexico the Mayan Indians use vertical looms on which they hand weave hundreds of fine cotton cords into a fine web over the course of several weeks. In Nicaragua they use a slightly thicker cotton cord to weave an extremely tight and luxurious bed, while further south in the cooler climate of Brazil they use horizontal foot looms to create cloth hammocks to which they attach ornate crochet fringes that are used to wrap over the occupant during colder nights.
 
US Navy Hammocks during WW2
 
In Central American society the hammock is traditionally used indoors as a bed for sleeping in over night, hence all these traditional hammocks have been designed to be well balanced, soft and extremely comfortable, the two things that you won’t find in a comfortable sleeping hammock are wooden spreader bars and thick uncomfortable ropes.

Although he did not invent it, the man who is generally credited with the resurgence in use of the ‘rope’ hammock in North America is Walter R. Perkins Jr. In 1971, Perkins worked as a buyer for American Tobacco Company and traveled extensively throughout North and South Carolina. Prior to a tobacco-buying trip along the Carolina coast, his mother asked him to bring back a hammock for her beach home. Perkins liked the hammock so much that he began selling them from the trunk of his car along the North Carolina coast and then in time founded the Hatteras Hammock Company.
 
Rope Hammock
 
Thanks to hard work of Mr. Perkins the American public has been introduced to the relaxing idea of owning a hammock, many new companies are importing or manufacturing there own hammock designs, there are plenty of great choices and with the advent of the internet its now possible for anyone to own an a really great hammock.

Most recently the trend in hammocks has been a retreat from hard ropes and a return to the uncompromised comfort of the Caribbean styles. Via the internet it is easy to find all kinds of Mayan, Brazilian, Columbian or Nicaraguan hammocks. Some enterprising manufacturers have even combined the ancient weaving skills of the indigenous tribes with latest hi tech soft-spun polyester textiles to produce hammocks that are every bit as comfortable as the original designs but with the added advantage that they can with stand the harsh outdoor environment.
 
Comfortable Hammock with Modern Materials