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The History of Sealy Mattresses

The History of Sealy Mattresses

America’s #1 Mattress Brand for Hundreds of Years

It all started in Sealy, TX in 1881. Sealy was started by a cotton gin builder, Daniel Haynes, when he started making cotton-filled mattresses for friends. In 1889, he invented the machine that compressed cotton. To further enhance the machine’s success, he licensed it to others to make mattresses with the name “mattresses from Sealy.”

After that, Sealy Inc.grew from an amalgamation of licensees into the world's biggest mattress manufacturer by the mid-twentieth century. In 1993, Sealy owned rought 23% of the bedding market, nearly as much as its next two competitors put together. Of Sealy's major rivals in the $2.3 billion mattress industry, Serta and Spring Air are licensee groups and Simmons is a national manufacturer.

How Did They Begin?

In Chicago in 1882, Sealy was established as a licensing organization. The company's licensees owned Sealy Inc. stock, and leaders of the individual affiliates comprised Sealy's board of directors. Their decentralized organizational structure evolved from the nature of making a mattress and distributing it. The size and weight of mattresses often presents certain shipping and storage issues they needed to take into account. 

With exclusive territories that gave the licensees a place to do business without the competitors, the company slowly began to grow. Sealy affiliates gave the Chicago company royalties in exchange for national and cooperative brand advertising, access to research and development performed by the central organization, and quality control guidelines. It worked well and that structure was still used by the majority of mattress companies in the United States all the way into the late twentieth century.

In 1907 Morris Wuliger, a Hungarian immigrant, established the Ohio Mattress Co. in an abandoned church. This company started what we know as Sealy when it bought its first Sealy license in 1924, when Frank Wuliger, the son of the founder, inherited the presidency of Ohio Mattress. With this, the Ohio company had the gith to use the Sealy name, which had become the most recognized name in the industry. In 1939, Frank called his son, (now the third generation) Ernest, home from his second year of classes at the University of Chicago to assist him with running the family business. Ernie Wuliger, who once stated in an interview that he was "born to sell mattresses," was soon seen as an authority in the bedding industry. By the time he was 35, he became chairman of Sealy's national advertising committee.

On To Great Things

From 1951 to 1955, the yearly sales of Ohio Mattress went up four times from $1.5 million to over $6 million, and by 1956, it was the biggest of the Sealy affiliates in America and Canada, which numbered more than 30. In 1956, the Ohio Mattress company acquired the Sealy Mattress Co. of Houston, Texas, which became the start of Wuliger's push to dominate the Sealy organization and the mattress industry.

In 1963, Ernest Wuliger succeeded his father as president of Ohio Mattress and devoted his $7-million-a-year company to a number of ambitious goals that included getting over $100 million in yearly sales, nationwide expansion, and a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. These goals began a 25-year battle that stretched from the Sealy territories to the public market.

In 1970, the Ohio Mattress Company became the only publicly held mattress manufacturer in the nation. This change to the company allowed it to raise funds for further expansion, and Wuliger changed the growing company's name to Ohio-Sealy Mattress Mfg. Co. 

In 1986, Wuliger won a final judgment of $77 million but instead of just collecting the damages, he exchanged them for the right to acquire the eight remaining licenses. This gave him full control of Sealy Inc. By the end of 1987, each of the licensees was under his control and the whole of Sealy was a part of Ohio Mattress.

In the meantime, Wuliger had also shored up Ohio-Sealy's position in the larger bedding industry with the 1983 purchases of Monterey Mfg. Co., a top waterbed manufacturer based in Los Angeles, and Lifetime Foam Products, a bedding manufacturer previously owned by Sears, Roebuck & Co. Ohio-Sealy also acquired a furniture and waterbed frame manufacturer, TrendWest. This all together gave the company the ability to expand their product offerings and become a bedding and mattress giant in America.

Even More Growth 

In December of 1983, Wuliger also acquired Stearns & Foster (you can learn more about their history here), a prominent mattress brand. This helped the company to achieve two of Wuliger’s most-desired goals. Acquiring the Cincinnati-based firm cost Ohio-Sealy $52 million in cash and stock, but it gave Wuliger complete control of a well-known and loved national brand and assisted to catapult the company further into the mattress industry. It also meant that the company did achieve its other goal of hitting over the $100 million mark. 

In fact, sales more than doubled, going from $98 million in 1983 to $251 million in 1984. That in turn earned Ohio Mattress a spot on the New York Stock Exchange. So what did Wuliger do with the newfound success? He set out right away to refresh the now 175-year-old Stearns & Foster brand by launching the label's first nationwide advertising campaign since 1909. The $4 million budget was mostly spent on ads in high-end shelter magazines including Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, Town & Country, and others. The brand's slogan, "You've earned a Stearns & Foster," was targeted toward the high-end, luxury mattress consumer.

In 1989, less than two years after acquiring control of the world's biggest mattress brand, 67-year-old Ernest Wuliger started to experience more serious health conditions and subsequently announced his intention to sell Ohio Mattress. It also turned out to be a good time to sell because of the increasing popularity of the brand and the value of these types of franchise opportunities. Indeed, although Ohio Mattress was valued at $427 million at the end of 1988, merchant banker Gibbons Green van Amerongen paid more than twice that, $965 million in fact, to take the company private in 1989.

New Faces at Ohio-Sealy

The new owners appointed Malcolm Candlish as the COO and president. Furthermore, the company's 1990 assumption of the Sealy Corp. name signaled the firm's shift from an entrepreneurial conglomeration to a modern, consolidated corporation. Candlish also vowed in a 1990 interview with Barbara Solomon for Management Review "to retain as much as we can of what is good about being an organization of licensees, and we will complement it with all the advantages of being a national company."

To keep the health of the company in check, CEO Candlish was able to prune corporate expenses, keep up with interest payments, and increase revenue by 6.2% to $702.3 million. The new leader closed more than one-third of Sealy's 38 plants and opened three new, more efficient plants in strategic locations. Candlish standardized production and centralized some purchasing to take advantage of the company's newfound national buying power. In mid-1990, Sealy also invested in its biggest advertising campaign ever. The national effort spent about $11 million on prime-time television spots prepared by Leo Burnett Co.

Sealy brought in Lyman M. (John) Beggs to succeed Candlish, whose experience included work with such global consumer products companies as Procter & Gamble Co., Del Monte Corp., Tambrands, Inc., and Norelco Consumer Products Group. With a more unified company vision and that vision flowing down to the managers, Sealy focused on creating the best mattresses possible and embracing new technology. Where did that drive take them? Let’s check it out.

A Name You Can Trust

Sleep is crucial to our success and Sealy knows this. In fact, Sealy's Posturepedic technology enhances the quality of your sleep so much that you can enjoy comfort, proper spinal support, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day.

Sealy holds their mattresses to the highest quality standards that you’ll find in the entire industry. Consumers rate Sealy ahead of the competition time and again when it comes to product performance and durability. They work with orthopedic specialists when creating their new technology and spend more on research and development than any other mattress manufacturer around.

Sealy's comfort materials are of the best quality because they determine the feel of the mattress and how long your bed will retain its showroom comfort. The quality and durability also goes deeper than just the comfort materials. Sealy makes sure to provide the latest in support technology as well. They ensure their mattresses are reinforced where you need it most, so you’ll never get sagging or imprints in the bed.

This innerspring technology was created in cooperation with leading orthopedic surgeons to ensure correct support for your back and body. The Response and Hybrid mattresses use advanced innerspring technology to offer impressive motion separation, and the pocketed coil system conforms to your body.

Sealy also spends more than twice as much on R&D than its closest competitor, and more than all the rest of the mattress manufacturers combined. You’ll find the most advanced bedding technology in the industry today in these impressive beds. Plus, Sealy has the most patents on mattress and foundation technologies and every Sealy mattress is rigorously tested to make sure that its comfort and durability is up to snuff.

Sealy’s Newest Innovation

The Sealy® Posturepedic® Plus line is the latest edition to the premium line of mattresses from Sealy that are created to help you sleep your best. With Sealy’s trusted support- targeted to your back and core- plus cooling comfort you can count on, you’ll be sleeping like a dream.

These mattresses use targeted support with SealyCool™ Gel Memory Foam. The targeted support means that they’ve reinforced the bed for the heaviest part of your body and added cooling comfort from gel-infused memory foam. This Chill™ Technology helps to things feeling refreshing and cool-to-touch from the moment you lie down. It’s also got AllergenProtect™ that safeguards your mattress from common allergens, including dust mite dander. And all foams used in the Sealy® Posturepedic® Plus Collection are CertiPUR-US® program certified.

The Testimony models feature the DuraFlex™ Coil Edge System that provides densely packed coils around the edge of the mattress to create a solid seating surface, more space to sleep, and additional durability.

For the Determination and Victorious models, the DuraFlex™ Pro Coil Edge System offers those same densely packed coils in addition to a bold, ventilated design that gives the bed refreshing airflow to keep it cool.

At the top of the Posturepedic® Plus line is the Victorious that provides all of the above as well as ComfortSense™HD Premium Memory Foam, which senses and responds to your body’s unique shape to give you the personalized comfort and support you need.

And There You Have It

If you have any questions we’d be glad to help. You can reach out over the phone or through email at We know that sleep is important to you, and it's crucial to us. Allow us to help you find the perfect mattress for your needs so that each and every night is the best night of sleep.

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