The history of tanning beds starts in the German town of Hanau, famous for being the birthplace of authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, back when it was a small smoky village in the 1600's.
Hanau was known as a jeweler and goldsmith town, a place where precious metals and stones could be traded, smelted and sold. One of these local businesses, Einhorn Apothecary, was owned by the Heraeus family starting in 1660, and specifically served German counts.
But the small family business was only a local player. It seemed it could fade into the history of the sleepy community located east of Frankfurt. That changed in 1851 when 24-year-old Wilhelm Carl Heraeus purchased the Einhorn Apothecary from his father.
Wilhelm was an innovative chemist and pharmacist, creating a simple way for processing platinum, which before had to undergo a rigorous melting process. With the new success and the new name of Heraeus, the small family company grew incredibly over the next 150 years, and is today one of the largest precious metal companies in the world. But along the way they discovered the technology behind the first tanning lamps and tanning beds.
In 1898 Wilhelm and Heinrich Heraeus, the two sons of Wilhelm Heraeus, took over the family business. It was a successful company employing more than 40 people. It was the brothers that spearheaded the incredible growth mentioned above.
One of their smartest moves was to bring on former classmate Richard Küch. Like their father Wilhelm Heraeus, Küch was a talented and innovative chemist. In 1904 he was experimenting with evaporating mercury in quartz tubes for the company. Küch discovered that when the element in the tube was hit with electricity it responded by creating an incredible light source that also imitated the sun by emitting ultra-violet light.
It took the German company until the 1930's to develop and market their new lamps to the public, but sales quickly skyrocketed in Europe.
This "Original Hanau Synthetic Sunlamp" was produced by Heraeus and AEG. This sun lamp technology stayed out of the American market, for the most part, until the late 1970's. At that time companies such as Wolff, Ultrabronz and JK Ergoline started exporting high-pressure tanning beds to the United States.
In the early 1980's indoor tanning in America exploded in popularity. Today in the United States the FDA regulates all sunlamps and products that contain them, such as tanning beds, booths and portable home units. All manufacturers of sunlamps in the United States must comply with FDA regulations, including the performance of tanning beds and the sunlamps in them.