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.