Staying Afloat: A Brief History of Lifejackets
It turns out that lifejackets have a fairly long history, dating all the way back to 1765 when the first recorded patent for a cork life jacket was documented by Dr. John Wilkinson or Norway, says Marine Warehouse in Britain. In the centuries since, the jackets have been modified to contain different materials, of course, and improved to make them more effective.
Fast forward a little bit to 1852. During the boom of steamboats, the U.S. Congress first passed into law a requirement that the vessels carry floats or life preservers for every passenger, the first legislation of its kind, according to Coming Back Alive. Within 20 years, cork became the predominant material used in the manufacture of lifejackets. Kapok, a fibrous-like material, was tested in some instances, but as it lost buoyancy when squeezed, it quickly lost out to other materials.
In the 1920s, the International Safety of Life at Sea Committee uncovered a major shortfall with many lifejackets – namely that the person wearing the jacket would frequently be pushed into a face-down position in the water due to the positioning of the cork. This was obviously counterintuitive, and led to further refinement and the inclusion of inflatable rings came along to help keep the wearer’s head above the water.
In the 1960s, foam lifejackets – much like those seen commonly today – came along into existence, says Marine Warehouse’s history. These lifejackets was that they were customizable to whichever water sport you were participating in and offered a greater deal of versatility than traditional jackets. The U.S. also made self-righting jackets the standard around this time. These jackets would float the wearer upright, an especially vital development for anyone who may have lost consciousness in the water.
Lifejackets are important pieces of safety equipment still today, and at Woody’s Watersports, every rider will be fitted for a lifejacket before heading out on their personal watercraft rental. Safety is important to us, and we want to make sure you have fun while staying safe on the water.
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