Hammock Swings & How They Came About

A Brief History of Hammocks





Well I guess I’ll start off by saying that history is an iffy subject. There are many opinions involved and many opinions left out. Some things are better left to our gut feeling which is almost always the best path to follow.

If you look in a dictionary you may see many different variations of the word hammock depending on the version you look at I presume. This indicates how long it took the English language to figure out how to spell the word. The origin of the hammock swings I believe dates back to pre-Columbian antiquity, somewhere between southern Brazil and central Mexico. The hammock swings would be an ideal option for these types of climates. Just the fact that they are off the ground, with the wind being able to blow through and all around you would make one feel more pampered from the hot sun.

When the serendipitous tides brought Columbus to the New World, he saw hamacs of cotton on the Island of Exuma, near San Salvador in the Bahamas.* This would then catch on as a trend to the navies of Europe. One naval man in his Sailors World Book , says: “Hammock: A swinging sea-bed, the undisputed invention of Alcibiades; but the modern name is derived from the carribs..”

These hammocks played an enormous role in the seventeenth and eighteenth century warships. First off the warships require a considerable amount of people and there habitations were limited to a narrow space in their sleeping quarters. The hammock swings allowed them to crowd the beds together as close as possible, sometimes as close as 14 inches. They strung the hammocks from one side of the ship to the other nearly throughout the whole length of the ship allowing the only passage through by leaning beneath them. Another benefit of the hammock swings was the ease of taking them down in case of an emergency. When they were to battle with the canons they would have to quickly remove all the hammock swings and be ready for whatever it was. So these hammocks would allow the 3 decker ships to sleep 800 men fairly comfortably and then be ready to clear instantly for action.

The hammocks were also used to bury the deceased in the deep-sea below. They were sewn into the hammock swings and weighted with shot. They would have whatever ceremony they had and then dumped into the deep abyss.

Then late in the nineteenth century, more comfortable hammock swings were imported to Europe and the United States from Brazil and Mexico. They improved the style of the hammocks and then later on started using different materials for different levels of comfort and durability. We now have many varieties of hammock swings. They have seemed to become a symbol of leisure in our day.  The gentle rocking motion seems to calm one down and help put your mind at ease.