You’ve seen this blanket, you might just not realise it. It’s in nearly every baby photo taken for decades, yet very few of us ever even notice it — who would bother, confronted with the first image of their new nephew, grandkid or daughter? It’s an invisible piece of design, but as Qz points out, it’s also a great one.
The popularity of the little blue-and-pink striped flannel receiving blanket, from a line called Kuddle-Up, makes sense. It works for both sexes, after all, and avoids any question over what pattern to choose on the part of parents. But where did it come from? Qz’s Lisa Selin Davis recently dug into the history of this little blanket, and found that it had unlikely 100-year-old origins.
It turns out the blankets are made by a century-old Illinois company called Medline that began making aprons for the meatpacking industry and then moved into medical supplies. It was actually the first company to develop the light green scrubs used in hospitals today, as opposed to the light-reflecting white aprons traditionally used. But the success of Medline’s receiving blanket had more to do with a cultural shift than Medline itself. The way women were giving birth in America was changing, as Davis explains:
Childbirth had largely been domestic work in the 19th century. With the advent of pain medication, the rise of comprehensive health insurance in the 1910s (later, of course, defeated) and the establishment of the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecology in 1930, among other factors, childbirth moved from the bedroom to the hospital room.
And the millions of mothers who were giving birth in hospitals — and the millions of doctors who were now delivering their babies — needed cheap, clean blankets to wrap them in. In other words, this simple little blanket was in the right place at the right time. Read Davis’ whole fascinating post here.