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Murphy’s space-saving solution

Moseyin’ Along

October 3, 2012
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

When our friend, Sue, decided to transform her spare bedroom into a combined office and guest room, she turned to an innovation used by generations of home-owners for over 100 years. She brought in a Murphy bed.

The clever concept of a foldaway bed was the brainchild of William L. Murphy, an early Californian who understood the old adage "necessity is the mother of invention."

At the end of the 1800s, Murphy was living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco. He hated the fact that his tiny quarters were dominated by the bed. There had to be a better way, William thought.

In addition to his cramped living space, William's problems were complicated even more when he met a lovely lady named Gladys. Although he was eager to court Miss Gladys, it wasn't permissible in those long-ago days for a lady to visit a gentleman in his bedroom.

In order to solve both his problems of space and propriety, William hit on the idea of a folding bed. Not only would such a space-saver open up his small living quarters, but by converting his room into a proper "parlor," he could invite friends - including Miss Gladys - to visit.

William's experimentation paid off and in 1900, he applied for a patent for his fold-up bed. So it was that the "Murphy Door Bed Company" of California was born, making it one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in the country.

Early in its existence, the Murphy Bed gained visibility when it was used as a prop in many silent movies, among them the films of Charlie Chaplin. Though the silent movies have disappeared from American life, the Murphy Bed has remained a part of the furniture scene.

Through the years, the tuck-away beds have waxed and waned in popularity. But today, with both space and convenience at a premium in all kinds of living quarters, wall beds are once again in wide demand.

In January 1990, the original "Murphy Door Bed Company" officially changed its corporate name to the "Murphy Bed Co, Inc." with William L. Murphy's grandson, Clark Murphy, at the helm. And, though the Murphy Bed lost its trademark protection in 1989 because the term had become so commonly used, the Murphy Bed Co, Inc. continues to serve as the nation's official outlet.

The popularity of the convenient tuck-away beds remains high in the home setting, especially in such spaces as studio apartments. But these days, Murphy Beds can be also found in such varied locales as fire houses, hospitals, dormitories and hotels.

Through the years, the home applications, too, have changed. Like the Murphy Bed recently installed by our pal, Sue, today's most popular models are part of impressive wall units that include desks, clothes closets, dresser segments and other additions.

In Sue's case, the bed unit has turned a seldom-used spare room into a sleek and efficient guest room/office combination.

Not only would William L. Murphy be impressed by the functionality of his enhanced wall bed design, but there's no doubt his lady love, Gladys, would be eager to come for a visit.



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