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History of the Murphy Bed

A Murphy Bed (in North America), also called a wall bed, pull down bed, fold-down bed, or hidden bed, is a bed that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall, or inside of a closet or cabinet.

According to Smithsonian Mag, the Murphy Bed was originally invented around 1900 in San Francisco, when William Lawrence Murphy “was falling for a young opera singer and courting customs at that time would not permit a lady to enter a gentleman’s bedroom. His invention allowed him to stow his bed in his closet, transforming his one-room apartment from a bedroom into a parlor.”

Murphy then formed the Murphy Bed Company, and patented his “In-A-Door” bed in 1908. He never trademarked the name “Murphy Bed,” however.

Murphy Beds peaked in 1925, when the company moved its corporate headquarters to New York City.

Bed historian Robyn Einhorn of the Smithsonian in Washington says owning a Murphy Bed became a status symbol—”People would move into these hotels in New York and they would have a suite which would include a Murphy Bed, so they could pick up the bed and have a parlor.

The grandson of inventor William, Clark W. Murphy, has been the president of the company since 1983.

>> The Murphy Bed on Wikipedia

How the Murphy Bed Got its Name

The bed is named for William Lawrence Murphy (1876–1959), who applied for his first patents around 1900. According to legend, he was wooing an opera singer, but living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco, and the moral code of the time frowned upon a woman entering a man’s bedroom. Murphy’s invention converted his bedroom into a parlor, enabling him to entertain in one living space!

Earlier fold-up beds had existed, and were even available through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, but Murphy introduced pivot and counterbalanced designs for which he received a series of patents, including one for a “Disappearing Bed” on June 18, 1912 and another for a “Design for a Bed” on June 27, 1916.

In 1989, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” had entered common usage so thoroughly that it was no longer eligible for trademark protection.

Murphy Beds are used for space-saving purposes, much like trundle beds, and are popular where floor space is limited, such as small homes, apartments, hotels, mobile homes and college dormitories. In recent years, Murphy Bed units have included options such as lighting, storage cabinets, and office components. They have seen a resurgence in popularity in the early 2010s due to the weak economy, with children moving back in with their parents and families choosing to renovate homes rather than purchasing larger ones.

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Murphy Bed Designs

Most Murphy Beds do not have box springs. Instead, the mattress usually lies on a platform or mesh and is held in place so as not to sag when in a closed position. The mattress is attached to the bed frame, often with elastic straps to hold the mattress in position when the unit is folded upright.

Since the first model several other variations and designs have been created, including: sideways-mounted Murphy Beds, Murphy bunk beds, and solutions that include other functions. Murphy Beds with tables or desks that fold down when the bed is folded up are popular, and there are also models with sofas, TVs, cabinets, and shelving add-ons.

Murphy Beds in Movies, Music, Comedy, Culture

Did you know that Murphy & Wall Beds have appeared in movies and have become part of pop culture–since their invention?
Here’s a few appearances and sightings that we know of–if you ever find more instances–let us know!

Murphy Beds in Disney Movies:

The Murphy Bed Song


The Murphy Beds (music group)

The Murphy Bed in Music Lyrics

Murphy Bed Lyrics

The Murphy Bed
by Gallup & Goodhart | Recorded 1958
On the CD “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”, Columbia Legacy Records

Oh, the neighborhood is buzzing and someone’s face is red,
But what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?
His wife is in the kitchen and it’s time that he was fed,
So what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?

The murphy bed, that folds into the wall,
The bed went up, O’Reilly went up and he never came down at all,
The murphy bed, that folds into the wall
The bed went up, it better come down or he’ll miss the policeman’s ball.

Now, he can’t be in there sleeping and standing on his head,
Oh, what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?
If he ain’t out for breakfast, we know he must be dead
So what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?

The murphy bed, O’Reilly’s still inside,
The bed went up, O’Reilly went up, but he didn’t go up for the ride.
The murphy bed, that ain’t no place to hide
Come out, o boy, O’Reilly o boy, it’s very undignified.

Now I know about Columbus, I know what Shakespeare said,
But what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?
I’ve always solved the mystery of any book I’ve read,
But what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?

Oh, the bed’s on fire, we’re worried now you bet,
Thru smoke and flame, the firemen came but they haven’t been heard from yet.
The murphy bed, it’s got us all upset,
He’ll burn his face, that ain’t no place, to be smoking a cigarette

Now, you’ll see it in the headlines, the news has really spread,
But what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?
O’Leary asked O’Dooley, who asked his Uncle Ned,
Say, what is O’Reilly doing in the murphy bed?

The murphy bed, that folds into the wall,
The bed went up, O’Reilly went up, and he never came down at all.
The murphy bed, that folds into the wall
The bed went up it, better come down or he’ll miss, the policeman’s ball.

>> Learn to play The Murphy Bed Song, tab