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The mystery of the vanishing beds

Legend has it that one of the greatest inventions of the 1900’s,‘The Murphy Bed’ was a creative product driven by a man’ s love for a woman. A seemingly atypical start to a love story, but a brilliant invention for the rest of the world.

It all commenced in the late 1890's when the moral philosophy of the times prohibited the presence of an unwed, unescorted woman with a man in a room having a bed. Head over heels in love with a beautiful young opera singer, eager for some valuable wooing time, William Murphy had a big problem on his hands, his bed. Making matters worse, the young inventor's bed happened to be the nucleus of his minimal, single roomed studio apartment in San Francisco. Unwilling to give up, motivated and highly resourceful, Murphy took up the challenge of making his bed vanish when required, come hell or high water. It was this unstoppable staunchness that resulted in the creation of a foldaway bed, known to everyone as, ‘The Murphy Bed’. Accompanied by door hinges and a closet door jamb, this brainchild of William Murphy allowed him to stow his bed into his closet, revamping his apartment from a bedroom into a parlor. Truly a win for all, Murphy as well as the world, which was now introduced to real life sorcery of a different sort. Although discrepancies regarding the true unfolding of this widely loved story do exist, some descendants of William Murphy have claimed it to be the official course of events, and hence is largely accepted.

You may often come across terms such as a wall bed, pull down bed, fold-down bed or hidden bed, hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall, or inside of a closet or cabinet, but in the end they're all the same, a Murphy bed. A blend of perfect timing, a benchmark product, and an ingenious marketing strategy by William Murphy is what saw the sales of the beds skyrocket and has been credited to the success of the Murphy bed. Furthermore, the swift build-up of the Industrial revolution raised the popularity of this magnificent invention due to the ample manufacturing jobs it made available for the people flocking to urban centers, accompanied by the housing shortages faced by the world, where living places were deluxe and getting even more compact. All in all, a perfect time for a creative, space-saving furnishing like the Murphy bed to flourish like it did and reached its peak popularity.

Unfortunately, although not short lived, the eruption of the Great Depression and onset of world war II, saw a linear decrease in production as well as popularity of the wall beds due to hurdles like steel and raw material rationing, and the post-war suburban housing growth spurt. The requirements for the beds were simply not the same, up until the economic recession of the 1970’s where the Murphy beds returned to fame with people once again cutting back on their living spaces. Though now looked upon as a useful commodity rather than a social status.

It’s the 21st century now, and the Murphy beds are back in vogue. Usually an accessory of college students or people living off tight pay checks in small living spaces, the Murphy beds aid in making lives easier by providing great comfort even during times of economic hardship. Revised a bit from its traditional structure which was installed right into closet spaces, Murphy beds today come in a variety of styles, colors, shapes and sizes, customized as per the requirements of the buyer. So much so that you also see them give way to cabinets, desks, bookshelves and a lot more.

All this has probably got you thinking, ‘William Lawrence Murphy, pretty much a genius right?’ Well, that he was, an artistic genius that changed the course of history forever.


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