THE NEW YORK TIMES -- He used Jell-O and cornstarch at first, but the squashy gunk, poured into a vinyl bladder, was too heavy to move. And it began to stink after a few days. Then he tried water. “Rancid Jell-O Led to First Water Bed,” a newspaper headline proclaimed at the time.
It was 1967, the Summer of Love, and Charles Hall, a student at San Francisco State University, was experimenting with flotation furniture, as he called it then, for an engineering class. (He got an “A.”) The following year, after some tweaks, his 8-foot-square heated “Pleasure Pit” debuted at a gallery on Leavenworth Street, as part of a show called The Happy Happening.
Mr. Hall was living in Haight-Ashbury, in an apartment in a listing Victorian that rented for $67. It was August, a slow news cycle, Mr. Hall recalled, and the Pleasure Pit made news around the country.