Backyards and beachfronts across America owe a debt of gratitude to a young, ingenuous South Carolina cargo boat captain who envisioned a better way to lounge.
As the story goes, Joshua John Ward, a cargo captain, was sailing in coastal South Carolina, in 1889, when he decided that cooler sleeping arrangements than the grass-stuffed bed he'd placed on the hot deck of his boat were in order. Taking some rope onboard, he lashed himself the first Pawleys Island hammock. His newly created bedding lulled him to sleep as it swayed in the gentle current. The captain ditched the grass mattress in favor of rope and shared his creation with family and friends.
During the Depression, Ward's descendants went public with Captain's Josh's creation to a limited clientele along the South Carolina coast, and in the 1960s, sales went nationwide. Pawleys is the first hammock manufacturing company in the United States, taking its name from one of the nation's oldest resorts, which is located along South Carolina's Low Country coast. The hammocks are made the same way today that Captain Josh made them. The cotton ropes are stretched and handwoven with a needle between two stretcher bars made from red oak that has been steamed, bent and varnished. The ropes are strung in and out of the holes drilled in the bars and tied off with nautical bowline knots—harking back to the seafaring roots. Each hammock is marked with a metal tag to assure authenticity. Visitors to Pawleys Island can watch as hammocks are created by artisans in the workshop there.
The traditional cotton hammock can hold up to 450 pounds off the ground before bottoming out. The sizes of hammocks range from a solo model to the Presidential, which measures a sprawling, king-sized 65 by 82 inches. You can prop the hammock up between two trees in the back yard or purchase a portable stand ($139), which will support the hammock in any location with a relaxing breeze and a nice view.
Pawleys Island hammocks range in price from $149 for the single rope hammock to $228 for the deluxe quilted fabric version.