A Brief History of Murphy Beds

What is a "murphy bed"?

A Murphy bed (a North American term only) or wallbed, or fold away bed, is a bed that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall, or inside a closet or cabinet. To achieve this, the mattress is attached to the bed frame, often with elastic straps. Wall beds are used for space-saving purposes, much like a trundle bed is. Most wall beds do not have box springs. Instead, the mattress usually lies on a wood platform or wire mesh.

Original Murphy Bed in a closet

Murphy beds are popular where square footage is limited, such as small homes, apartments and college dormitories. In recent years, Murphy bed units have included options such as lighting, storage cabinets and office components. [Taken from Wikipedia]

What variations are there to murphy beds?

Modern wallbeds include horizontal-oriented beds that flip up from the side and even bunk wallbeds for optimizing limited space. A piston-lift mechanism makes modern wallbeds easy to lower and raise. [Taken from Wikipedia]

What is the history of murphy beds?

William Lawrence Murphy (1876-1959) applied for a patent for the Murphy bed on April 1, 1916 and was granted Design Patent D49,273 on June 27, 1916. Murphy started the Murphy Wall Bed Company and began production in San Francisco. In January 1990 the company changed its name to the "Murphy Bed Co. Inc."

These beds make appearances in movies, as they lend themselves to slapstick humor in which people are trapped when the bed folds into the upright position, carrying the person on the bed inside. For example, in Stanley Kramer's comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the smarmy Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) gets thrown from the fire truck ladder, through a window and onto a Murphy bed, which promptly retracts into the wall. In Mel Brooks' Silent Movie, a hotel's neon sign advertises "Murphy Beds - Charming to the Unsophisticated". Modern Murphy beds utilize a counterbalance system making it near impossible to get trapped.

Are the words "Murphy Bed" patented or copyrighted?

In 1989 an appellate court held that the term "Murphy bed" is no longer entitled to trademark cover because a substantial majority of the public perceive the term as a generic term for a bed that folds into a wall, rather than the specific model made by the Murphy Bed Co. [Taken from Wikipedia]

Photo: An original Murphy bed, lifted against the wall, doors open.