The Murphy bed is a type of bed that can be folded and stored vertically against the wall or inside a closet or cabinet. It is named after William Lawrence Murphy, an Irish immigrant who lived in a one-room apartment in San Francisco in the late 19th century. Murphy wanted to find a creative way to make space in his small apartment so he could entertain a young opera singer he was courting, without violating the moral code of the time that forbade a woman from entering a man’s bedroom. Murphy’s invention allowed him to transform his bedroom into a parlor by hiding his bed in his closet. He patented his design in 1911 and started a company that sold his beds across the country.
The Murphy bed became popular in the 1920s, when a housing shortage and population growth led to the construction of smaller homes and apartments. The Murphy bed offered a space-saving solution that could turn any room into an extra bedroom at night. The bed was also featured in many comedy films and shows, such as Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. (1916), where he struggles with a malfunctioning Murphy bed. The bed continues to be used today in various settings, such as hotels, mobile homes, college dormitories, and offices. The modern Murphy bed has improved features, such as lighting, storage cabinets, and office components. It also uses pistons or springs to make it easier to lower and raise the bed.
The Murphy bed is an example of how a simple idea can have a lasting impact on American history and culture. It reflects the creativity, ingenuity, and adaptability of its inventor and the people who used it. It also shows how a piece of furniture can serve multiple functions and respond to changing needs and preferences over time.
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 fro 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.