History 101: Who Invented the Electric Blanket?

who invented the electric blanket

Since their invention, electric blankets have been used in medical settings and by people in their homes for various reasons. Electric blankets are a great way to preheat your bed and keep you warm during cold winter nights. However, they didn’t always look like the plush blanket devices we know and love today. In fact, the idea for electric blankets began more as a heating pad or device to be used from below, not as a blanket placed over your body.

So, who invented the electric blanket and what advancements were made to make it become the popular device that it is today? This article explores the history of electric blankets and their credited inventors so you can gain a better understanding of how they came to be and possibly appreciate them a bit more than you already do.

The History of Electric Blankets

When Was the First Electric Blanket Invented?

The very first electric blanket was invented in 1912 by an American physician and inventor named Sidney Russell. The invention came from his desire to keep his patients warm while they recovered.

Russell’s invention was called a heating quilt or warming pad and was a crude precursor to the electric blankets we know today. Instead of being used to cover yourself, like a normal blanket, it went underneath your mattress to heat it from below.

Even though the initial device was invented in America, a British company produced and distributed them first. These initial heating quilts were very large, heavy, and even somewhat dangerous, so they remained fairly unpopular for some time.

Gaining Popularity In the Medical Field

Eventually, minor improvements were made to the original warming pads to increase popularity. Once the risk for fire and overheating was somewhat reduced, electric blankets became more widely used by medical professionals and by 1921, people commonly used them in tuberculosis sanitariums. Tuberculosis patients often have trouble breathing, so doctors recommended they get as much fresh air as possible. With help from an electric blanket, patients could stay outside for longer, and many even slept outside at night.

Who Invented the First Automatic Electric Blanket?

George Crowley

George Crowley invented the first automatic electric blanket. He worked for General Electric at the time, and they were awarded a patent in 1936. Crowley was an engineer and inventor, and when his electric blanket was patented, he was 80 years old. He made several improvements to the electric blanket invention to improve safety and make it more usable.

Before inventing his electric blanket, Crowley was a Naval Engineer in WWII, where he invented and made heated flying suits to keep pilots warm at high altitudes. He applied some of the same principles he used to suit his blanket invention and even used the same fabric in production.

Crowley’s Invention

Crowley’s electric blanket featured a separate thermostat that automatically turned the blanket on and off based on the room’s temperature. Eventually, it also turned off when hot spots developed and thanks to a thermostat being wired into the blanket. Later, multiple thermostats became common so the blanket could monitor both the temperature of the material and the room temperature for enhanced safety.

What Else Did George Crowley Invent?

As a lifelong inventor, Crowley was also involved in a myriad of other technical projects. Some of his most notable inventions, other than the electric blanket and flying suit, include a squirrel repellent device, an advanced method for painting golf balls that involves suspending them in the air using a blower, and additional safety circuits for his blanket so it wouldn’t overheat and possibly cause burns or a fire.

Even though Crowley invented many things, he did not own any of his patents. Instead, the companies he worked for and his bosses maintained control, but that didn’t seem to bother him or slow him down.

Improvements Over Time

In 1946 the first automatic heated blankets were introduced in the USA and sold for $39.50, a hefty sum. At this point, people were still calling the invention a heated quilt, but by the 1950s, the term heated blanket caught on for good. Since Crowley’s improvements, the basic design for the electric blanket remained virtually the same until 1984, when blankets without a thermostat became available.

The Modern Electric Blanket

Today electric blankets are easy to wash come with a variety of enhanced safety features that include timers, an automatic shutoff function, and remote control access to settings. They can even target more heat toward your feet if you want and come in a wide variety of colours, sizes, and blanket materials. The first battery-powered models were also patented in 2017, making electric blankets highly portable.

Electric Blankets and You

Who invented the electric blanket? When it comes to its history, some people still debate whether Russell or Crowley should be credited with the original invention. Both inventors played an important role in the invention, but now that you have all of the historical details, you can decide for yourself.

Electric blankets have come a long way since their use by medical professionals in tuberculosis sanitariums and are actually quite common in homes around the world. If you don’t already own an electric blanket, maybe you’ll think of Crowley and Russell the next time you get cold and consider purchasing one for yourself.

Do you like to use these heated beddings? Let us know below.

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