Did Your Ancestors have a Murphy Bed?

You have to know what is a ‘Murphy Bed’ to find out if your ancestors ever had one. It is a wall bed, one stored vertically when not in use into the wall of a room. Other various forms included hidden in a closet or a cabinet. When needed, it pulls down to serve as a regular sleeping bed. Such a bed became very popular if a family had a small house or also used in small apartments.

The man who invented it was William L. Murphy, born 1876, in California, who developed this style bed before 1900. He developed the hideaway in the wall because he was courting an opera singer, while living in San Francisco, CA. The standard code of conduct at the end of the 19th century was that a single woman never entered a man’s bedroom. Murphy only rented a one-room apartment, with his bed clearly visible. By developing his bed to hide in the wall, his one-room was his parlor and he could have his lady friend come visit. The couple did marry in 1900. The couple divorced before 1910 and William remarried in 1912 to Gladys Kaughin and they had a son. William’s companies were: Murphy Door Bed and Murphy Bed and Kitchen, both out of New York. He died in 1957 in Florida with his son, William K. Murphy heading the companies.

There had been fold-up beds already but Murphy made great improvements in the design, creating the ‘Disappearing Bed’ and getting patents in 1912 and 1916.

Using a platform or meshwork and a mattress, the bed is easy to lift up and down, with no heavy box springs. A Murphy bed comes down by grabbing and pulling the handles. In most cases, the bed can be easily opened using one hand. The beds are attached to the wall (at the top), which keeps them from moving forward, backwards, or side to side.

So you just might recall these style beds, which are still used today.

Photos: Murphy bed; William Murphy in 1910; Bed hidden in the wall; and A cabinet hidden bed in a 1913 apartment building still in use in Stuart, FL.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Double vs Twin Beds

Sleeping Ancestors

Our Brave Ancestors

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