California King’s Reign Stops at the State Line

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The Golden State--home to the California Dream, the California Roll and . . . the California King mattress. Dimensions: 72 inches wide and 84 inches long. That’s four inches longer and four inches narrower than king-size beds made and sold in the other 49 states.

Just why is a matter of some debate.

Some say it’s because Californians are more freewheeling. Others say the Cal-King, as it is sometimes called, simply is built for tall, thin people. If you move your California King to, say, Cleveland, it’s a headache: You must special-order sheets to fit your now odd-sized bed.

Here’s how a bed became king, according to bed manufacturing lore:

Shortly after World War II, a Los Angeles mattress merchant decided that Californians, Angelenos in particular, had big enough houses and big enough lifestyles to warrant Big Beds. So he built a bed six feet wide by seven feet long, or 72 inches by 84 inches.


And he called it the California King.

Manufacturers in other parts of the country thought the Big Bed was a great idea, but that the Californian was not. If you build the Big Bed 76 inches wide, they argued, all you have to do is double up two single box springs (38 inches wide) underneath. If you make it 80 inches long, you just have to add an extra row of coils.

This King caught on. It was dubbed the “Eastern King” to distinguish it from its longer, narrower California counterpart, which Golden State manufacturers held to for reasons the rest of the world can only guess at.

As one mattress merchant says: “It’s great for Michael Jordan, but I’m 5-8, so it doesn’t do a thing for me.”