The Murphy Bed History is a actually a wonderful love story. The Murphy Beds are named after William Lawrence Murphy (1876–1959), who was the first to apply for a patent on the system around 1900.
He lived in a one-room apartment in San Francisco, and wanted to be able to invite friends over – and especially a opera singer. But as the gentleman he was, he wouldn’t invite a woman into his bedroom, and since he only had one room, the bed took most of the space of the room.
So in order to be able to turn his room into a living room, he had a blacksmith help him mount a mechanism, that would make it possible to flip the bed into a closet. This way he was able to hide the bed, and turn the bedroom into a living room.
The trick worked – William L. Murphy got married to the girl
First Murphy Bed Design
Murphy experimented more on the design, and developed a picot mounted on a hinge inside the closet door. He made a contract with Simmons Company to manufacture and sell the Murphy Beds, and later he built his own factories.
Demand grows during the inter-war years
In the 20s and 30s the demand grew, and Murphy now had factories in San Francisco, Chicago and New York producing over 100.000 Murphy Beds per year.
The wall beds also appeared in popular TV shows like “The Marx Brothers”:
Later during the depression some factories were closed, and the steel rationing during the World War II also cut production. And in the post war years people began to build more houses and move out of their apartments, which also lowered the demand for Murphy Beds.
Next chapter in the Murphy Bed History
Not until 1989 did the court decide, that the term “Murphy Bed” could be used by anyone, hence William L. Murphy lost the trademark protection of the term “Murphy Bed”. The term was now publicly known as a “Bed that folds into a closet or up against the wall” and this court decision motivated several other manufacturers to start producing Murphy Beds.
Today the original Murphy Bed company is still run by the Murphy Family. Clark W. Murphy is 3rd generation and he is the CEO of the company and has been since 1983.
Today several companies still invent on the original Murphy Bed idea, and a lot of creativity has gone into designing clever space saving solutions.
Who did something similar before William L. Murphy?
Though the Murphy Bed history is mostly credited to William L. Murphy, several others had already experimented with space saving bed designs, and beds with similar functions had also been produced.
The first documented catalog featuring folding beds were put on the street by Sears and Roebuck in 1895, and according to one source Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere also used Murphy Beds.
This is the oldest wall bed, which you can find at the Brooklyn Museum:
Be sure to comment if you have more info on the history behind the Murphy Bed! Read also our guide to build your own Ikea Murphy bed. We have a lot of content on these amazing bed systems and would love to inspire you on your journey towards perfect sleep in a small space.