The Murphy Bed and American History

Developer William Lawrence Murphy (1856-1957) began tinkering with hideaway beds while residing in a one-room apartment in San Francisco in the late 19th century. He was falling for a young opera singer and courting customs at that time would not allow a woman to go into a gentleman’s bedroom. But according to family legend, Murphy’s restricted finances and a strict moral code didn’t spoil his opportunity at love. His invention allowed him to stow his bed in his closet, changing his one-room apartment from a bedroom into a parlor.

The couple wed in 1900.

Today, the Murphy bed, a bed that can be folded into a cabinet, is a household brand. National Museum of American History’s Assistant Collections Manager Robyn J. Einhorn researched the bed’s location in American history for her 2nd master’s thesis.

The Murphy bed’s increasing popularity came “since of a mix of great timing, a quality item, and an inventive marketing strategy,” Einhorn writes, “A real estate lack, induced by large population spurts in the nation resulted in the building of smaller sized homes.”

More frequently slapstick instead of theses, see Charlie Chaplin handle a picky Murphy bed above. The bed continues to make us laugh in movies like, Cops Academy II (1985) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) along with tv’s “Family Guy.”

William Murphy initially patented his bed in 1911. His design positioned a full-sized mattress on a metal frame that concealed in a closet throughout the day and quickly converted a dressing space, sleeping deck, or parlor into an additional bed room at night. Through the 1920s, newspaper ads for apartments utilized the Murphy bed as a selling point.

Though Murphy beds are often pricier than their regular equivalents,” continue to fill a requirement in living areas of today, whether it is for little city houses or rural houses of empty nesters turning a college student’s old bed room into an office/guest area,” Einhorn says.

Modern Murphy Beds Basics: The Components That Make Up Today’s Current Beds

Murphy beds is now a generic name applied to a large variety of beds, competitors have made different types of this system over the years, offering a lot of alternatives. In the early days, they were used like a regular bed that you use when the occasion arose. Today, Murphy beds have drawers, desks, shelves, cabinets,and home entertainment centers, to name a few features.. Because there are so many, choosing the right Murphy bed for your home can be overwhelming. Here is an overview of the different parts of a Murphy bed and how they affect the overall quality.  Murphy beds include: the folding mechanism, a setup system, the bed frame material, and many different bed mattress measurements.

Folding System

Most Murphy beds are operated by two main kinds of systems, : (1) spring system and (2) piston system. Spring mechanisms use durable counterbalanced coil springs that aid in the lifting and lowering of the bed. Depending upon the producer, some systems can last a life time without requiring adjustment or replacement while others have to be adjusted every now and then due to fatigue, which can cause an off-frame bed. Piston mechanisms, on the other hand, use atmospheric pressure or gas to move the bed. These usually have a ten-year life expectancy before they need a replacement. Unlike spring systems, nevertheless, piston systems can not be changed manually. This indicates that it is vital to install the right piston strength for the mattress. Strong piston systems can make the bed float somewhat off the ground due to the fact that there is insufficient weight to ground it.


A Murphy bed can be either (1) floor-mounted or (2) wall-mounted. Floor-mounted Murphy beds are usually the ones that rely on a spring system and have the advantage of stability. The negatives connected with this installing approach, nevertheless, are the damage to your floor and that it is really difficult to eliminate after setup. Wall-mounting, on the other hand, is the normal setup approach for Murphy beds that are geared up with a piston system. A wall-mounted Murphy bed typically does not trigger a lot of damage to your home since it attaches to the wall using a number of studs that can easily be removed if necessary.


Because of Hollywood slapstick comedy, a lot of people believe that the Murphy bed can only be installed vertically without knowing that there are horizontal options too. Vertical beds may not consume a lot of storage area, but they do eat up a great deal of flooring space when they are opened. In contrast, the horizontal ones consume a lot of storage area, however use up less of the flooring area when utilized. Horizontal Murphy beds are best for spaces with low head area and can be installed in mini-bars, desks, attic walls, and room dividers, among others.

Bed Frame Material

While the materials utilized to make a Murphy bed are limited just by one’s imagination, here are the 4 main ones that are frequently used: particle boards, medium density fiber boards, plywood, and strong wood.

Particle boards are made from compressed wood particles that imitate the look and feel of real wood utilizing veneer and are typically discovered in low-end Murphy beds. While it keeps the bed economical, particle boards are unknowned for their resilience and longevity. Like particle boards, medium density fiberboards are also engineered using wood particles. Because they utilize smaller particles and are more fine-tuned, beds that are made of these are more powerful, but likewise heavier, which can make it tough for both installation and elimination. Plywood is another kind of product that might be utilized. When layered and used as the outside, it can result in a tough bed frame that is smooth and all set for completing. However, all-plywood Murphy beds may still prone to structural defects if the bed has the misery of having a couple of knotted ply-woods included in its manufacture.

House owners who wish to choose the most costly, luxurious choice frequently get their bed frame used solid wood. These are produced utilizing oak, alder, mahogany, birch, cedar, cherry, and much more. Due to the fact that these are more difficult to make as there are lots of things that might go wrong in the manufacture (e.g., misalignment of grain patterns, structural concerns), these are more costly. While solid wood is generally robust, the material tends to warp as time passes, which is why individuals who get this typically decide to have strong wood as the interior and crafted wood (e.g. particle boards, plywood, medium density fiberboards) for the exterior.

Mattress Height and Weight

Beds are made to sleep on, and one can not do this without the proper mattress. Depending upon the individual’s preference, Murphy beds can come with queen -, king -, single -, and double – size mattresses. When looking for a Murphy bed, think about inspecting if it can accommodate the normal 11-inch bed mattress, which is the accustomed mattress height for the majority of people. Some Murphy beds will just enable a bed mattress height of 9 inches, which can be an agonizing experience for the individual sleeping on it. Another consideration is the mattress weight, which can affect piston mechanisms and spring stress and might lead the bed to float or jut out from the frame. Last but not least, when all is said and done, if sleeping on the Murphy bed is an unpleasant experience, then all the style and style will not matter one bit to the user.

History of the Murphy Bed

The bed is named after William Lawrence Murphy (1876– May 23, 1957), who applied for his very first patent some time in the early 1900’s.  History indicates that, he was trying to get the attention of an opera singer, but was living in a one room flat in San Francisco. At the time, it was considered immoral for a woman to enter a male’s bedroom. So the invention from Murphy changed his bedroom into a sitting room allowing him to have women visit there.

Before the time that fold-up beds had existed, and were sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in their catalog, however Murphy had designs that got a series of patents.  One was received for a “Disappearing Bed” on June 18, 1912 and another for a “Design for a Bed” on June 27, 1916.

Murphy beds are made use of for space-saving functions, much like trundle beds, and are popular where flooring location is restricted, such as small houses, home or condominiums, hotels, mobile homes and college dorm rooms. In the last few years, Murphy bed systems have really consisted of options such as lighting, storage cabinets, and work environment elements. They have actually seen a revival in appeal in the early 2010s due to the weak economy, with kids moving back in with their parents and homes choosing to renovate homes instead of acquiring bigger ones.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” had received such common use that it was no longer qualified for trademark defense.