One of the early settlers achievements was their discovery of comfort. Colonial comfort was mostly in a "satisfaction of space and proportions." Chairs were all hard and flat, while beds were not much better. The American rope bed was considered the ultimate in comfort.
The rope-strung torture machine in which our ancestors slept suited the times very well, and it likewise seemed to suit its occupants. When you realize that most of the early beds were entirely home-made, their slight efficiency and comfort seem all the more remarkable. The eary days were so much more active than the present ones that sleep fortunately must have been quicker and sounder.
Many antique shops see wooden "butter paddles" with handles that slant to one side instead of extending straight outward. This is all confusing until one realizes that they were not butter paddles at all but bed-patters. Feather beds needed a good deal of baging and patting to get them back into shape after a night's sleep on them, and a flat paddle to do the job was part of bedroom equipment. If you find a large paddle in your collecion of wooden kitchenware, and wonder why it is dated and initialed, it is probably an eighteenth century wedding gift, for bed-patters were once a favored present for the new bride.
Bed steps were handy for getting in and out of bed, especially for the older folks.
Excerpted by Maury Tosi
From Eric Sloane's booklet American Yesterday (1956)