Thanks to the invention of the electric blanket, you can now save money on heating systems and stay warm during cold winter nights. But did you know that electric blankets can be dangerous when not utilized properly?
Electric blankets can cause sleep heat stroke, resulting in a rectal temperature of up to 41.2 °C, severe burns, and death.
The Hazardous First Version of Electric Blankets
Although the early electric blankets were well-intended, they have some safety concerns and can cause heat strokes. It’s most likely one of the reasons it wasn’t popular back then. Even though the inventor was an American, it was first produced and distributed by a British company.
It was also not intended to be a blanket you could wrap around. It was similar to a bed heater that you put under your bed covers to warm your mattress. The first electric blankets appeared in the early 1910s. It is, however, more commonly referred to as heated quilts or warming pads.
This first version differs from the ones we use today. It wasn’t even popular back then due to its size and weight. (Source: Forensic Medicine and Pathology)
What was the Purpose of the Electronic Blankets Back Then?
When medical professionals used the electric blanket on patients in tuberculosis sanitariums, it drew attention. Tuberculosis impairs one’s ability to breathe. These enclosed facilities were not serving the patients well.
Physicians advised these patients to get as much fresh air as possible to alleviate their symptoms. As a result, these sanitariums would let them out for fresh air and sometimes even sleep outside. Electric blankets kept the patients warm while providing them with much-needed fresh air. (Source: Forensic Medicine and Pathology)
Who Invented the Electric Blankets?
Sidney Russell, a physician, and inventor, designed and patented a device to heat up bedsheets by placing them under the mattress in 1912. The issue was that these heating devices remained massive, heavy, and dangerous. However, a man named George C. Crowley improved Russell’s original design within a few years.
George C. Crowley invented the electric blanket. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame. He joined the Navy, where he was assigned to the General Electric Company during WWII and worked as an engineer on wartime technical projects.
Crowley devised the idea for an electrically heated flying suit for pilots working at General Electric, so they could fly above anti-aircraft flak without freezing. This eventually led to the invention of the electric blanket, which Crowley’s company patented.
In 1936, George C. Crowley invented the first electric blanket. Crowley’s electric blanket had a thermostat control that automatically turned the blanket on and off in response to room temperature changes. The thermostat also functioned as a safety device, cutting power if it detected any hot spots in the blanket.
Later electric blankets included multiple thermostats wired into the blanket for added control and safety. This basic design was the industry standard for nearly 50 years until thermostat-free electric blankets were introduced in 1984.
The first automatic electric blanket was introduced to the US market in 1946 for $39.50. At the time, it was referred to as warming pads or heated quilts. People didn’t start calling automatic heated blankets as electric blankets until the 1950s. (Source: Forensic Medicine and Pathology)
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