Who Invented The Folding Bed?

If there’s one device that came about as a result of utter necessity, it would have to be the folding bed. From space saving to multi-functional furniture, there could be numerous reasons why the folding bed came about. And today, we’ll be looking at a bit of interesting yet informative history behind these bed. So, just who invented folding bed?

A good question with more than one answer. See, the folding bed has been reinvented, evolved and re-adapted by more than one person over the years. Due to variations in designs that allow for unique patents, we can say that several people have been responsible for inventing the folding bed. So the next time you fold up a cabinet bed or pull out a roll-away bed, here are a few of the people you can thank for their contribution.

Sarah E. Goode

Born in Toledo Ohio 1855 as Sarah Elizabeth Jacobs, Sarah was the second of seven children. Their father, Oliver Jacobs was a native of Indiana and a carpenter. Interestingly, she went ahead to marry a stair builder and upholsterer with whom they opened a furniture store together.

Like many people in Chicago back then, Sarah and most of her friends and colleagues lived in studios or small homes with very little if any habitable space. They barely had any room to store things much less add to the furniture. Its this necessity that inspired Sarah to invent a folding cabinet bed that helped people in small homes make the most of the available space. When folded up, this bed looked like a desk with some storage room underneath.

Sarah received a patent for the folding bed on July 14, 1885, making her the first African American woman to receive a US patent. Basically, her patent covered something that had never been done before which was creating a bed that could be folded and unfolded quickly and remain stable thanks to weight distribution. The bed could also be secured on each side so as to stay in place with a bit of supplemental support at the centre when unfolded.

Goode’s invention was the precursor to the Murphy bed which got its patent later on. Very little else is known of Sarah E. Goode such as where and when she died, but her work is very important in history because it paved the way for other African Americans to create their own products and be able to get patents for them.

Read also: How to make a folding bed

William Lawrence Murphy

Also called a pull down bed, fold down bed or wall bed, William Lawrence was the man responsible for creating the Murphy bed. The bed was hinged on one end so that it could be stored vertically against a wall or in a closet. Murphy got his patent at around 1900 and legend has it that he invented the hide-away bed for a totally different yet more creative reason than Sarah Goode.

See, William was just another young lad living in a single room apartment in San-Francisco. At the time, he was wooing a beautiful opera singer but as you would expect, the moral code frowned upon a woman entering a man’s bedroom. So, how did clever young Murphy solve his conundrum? Simple, he invented a hide-away bed that converted his room into a parlor. While earlier foldup beds were available such as Sarah’s folding bed, Murphy’s bed had a unique twist. It introduced a pivoted and counterbalanced design that received more than one set of patents including one for the disappearing bed in 1912.

Even to date, Murphy beds and Sarah’s folding bed designs are still used for the ultimate space-saving purposes and are popular where floor space is at a premium. This includes apartments, hotels, small homes, college dorms, and mobile homes as well. Most recently, the beds come with options such as castors for easy transport, storage cabinets for Murphy beds and automatic mechanisms for effortless folding and unfolding.


So whether you’re looking or a temporary folding bed for guests of a permanent hideaway bed for your house, there’s a folding bed design for everyone. At least now you know who to thank every time you fold or unfold a bed and enjoy all the space savings you want without compromising on your comfort.

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