This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

You might not realize it, but the Simmons brand is one of the oldest in the country. Founded in the year of 1870, Simmons and its Beautyrest line of mattresses has helped the brand amass over 18 production facilities based across the United States and Puerto Rico.

The company didn’t always produce mattresses. When Zalmon G. Simmons opened his first facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he made cheese boxes. As payment for a debt he was owed, someone gave him the rights to a woven wire bedspring. Simmons didn’t sit on that patent for long. By 1876, he was mass producing mattresses, the first in his industry to do so successfully. With spiral coil technology in 1889, Simmons was able to reduce the cost of his mattresses from $12 to just 95 cents.

It incorporated in 1884, with the name of Northwestern Wire Mattress Company, but changed to Simmons Manufacturing Company in 1889.

After his father died in 1910, Zalmon Jr. took over the business and began a rapid national expansion with a full page spread in the Saturday Evening Post. Within ten years, Simmons owned plants in San Francisco, California, Montreal, Winnipeg, New Jersey, Seattle and others. Simmons also added an “in-store” sampling to his product lines, offering customers the opportunity to test the mattress before they bought.

Simmons is a household brand, perhaps best recognized for its famous “bowling ball” test. A commercial for Simmons featured someone sleeping on a mattress as a bowling ball was dropped on the other side, illustrating that a Simmons mattress was better for those who toss and turn. Simmons and Serta together hold a 34% market share on mattresses.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Twitter page.