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A Brief History of the Sleep Mask

May 06, 2017

A Brief History of the Sleep Mask

Eye Mask. Sleep Mask. Sleeping Mask. Blindfold. No matter what you call it, we can’t imagine trying to sleep on an airplane, in a hotel room, or even in our own bed without one.

We don’t think we are alone, based on the popularity of our HappyLuxe Escape Sleep Mask.

That prompted us to do a little research to find out how long this simple, brilliant, sleep aid has been in use.

A fascinating post on Van Winkle’s, The Little-Know 1930’s Couple that Made Sleep Better for All of Us, guided us to the original patent from 1933 (thank you Google) and the Popular Science issue that covered the story.

BTW - How cool is it that Popular Science has archived all their issues? May 1931 was a great month for news. Some of the other great stories are:

  • Cradle for Sick Horses Makes Treatment Easy
  • Seek Drug to Cure Dope Fiends
  • Pill Box Camera Takes Big Pictures
  • Spinner Plane Bids for Air Supremacy
  • Colored Snow Mystery at Last Explained
  • and so many more……

Back to the sleep mask. The patent was filed by Elsie M. and Edward C. Hemphill on August 27, 1930 and granted three years later.

The document states their claim: “This invention relates to an eye shield designed primarily for use by persons while sleeping so that their rest will not be disturbed by light rays. The shield can also be used while taking light treatments whereby the eyes will be protected from the light rays.

“It is an object of the invention to provide a simple and inexpensive device of this character which can easily be placed in position and will remain where placed without becoming accidentally dislodged under ordinary conditions…”

Great invention, although we do not think the strap looks too comfortable.

A little more digging on Google Patent brought us to application 2,537,768, filed on July 5, 1949 by one Joe Laporte. He got rid of that uncomfortable looking strap.

Like our HappyLuxe Escape Sleep Mask, this was also specially designed for use when traveling.

The original application states:

“The present invention pertains to a novel eye and ear shield designed especially for use in traveling but also useful for other purposes….

“The principal object of the invention is to provide a device of this character that enables an individual to shut out lights and noises while traveling and otherwise to create a restful environment. The device is also useful by persons who find it necessary to sleep during the day and who require darkness and quiet in order to fall asleep. This is true of many persons who work at night and must take their sleep during daylight.”

A big thank you to Elsie and Edward Hemphill, Joe Laporte, Van Winkle’s, Popular Science, and Google Patents for all your help in solving the mystery of where sleeping masks came from. Now it is time to take a mid-afternoon nap.

A Brief History of the Sleep Mask 


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