Friday, September 22, 2023


How it Happened: The disappearing (Murphy) bed

You see them inside many of today’s RVs, yet one of the very first iterations of the “disappearing bed” (now known as a Murphy bed) was used in the Monticello bedroom of Thomas Jefferson. In those days, the bed was held by ropes and fastened in place by wall hooks in the daytime or when not in use.

The “hidden bed” idea improves

Then in 1885, Sarah Goode, a former slave, received a patent for her “cabinet bed.” By day, the cabinet was a writing desk. At bedtime, the desk transformed into a bed. After Goode’s invention, other forms of the “disappearing bed” emerged. One of the most popular versions was the piano bed. Piano beds were actual pianos by day and converted into beds by night. Because parlors were fashionable at the time, even people without the means to afford an extra bedroom could enjoy the prestige and function of the piano bed.

Mr. Murphy’s love prompts invention

Mr. Murphy’s invention originated because of true love along with a sense of propriety. Story has it that William Murphy was in love with an opera singer. At the time, Murphy lived in a one-room, San Francisco apartment. Courting customs at the time did not permit a couple to enter a gentleman’s bedroom. So, Murphy designed a way for his bed to be stowed away in his closet. This transformed his bedroom into a “parlor.” Murphy married his sweetheart in 1900, and patented his idea in 1911.

Popularity increases

Throughout the 1920s, apartment advertisements touted the Murphy bed as a major selling point. Homeowners also snapped up Murphy’s invention. A housing shortage boosted the cost of homes forcing many folks to build smaller houses. A simultaneous population boom made the “hidden bed” a viable solution for many larger families.

Murphy bed name never trademarked

The Murphy bed name was never trademarked. Instead, William Murphy named his disappearing bed the “In-a-Door” bed. The Murphy family carried on the tradition of manufacturing their forefather’s invention, with competitors and consumers alike still referring to the disappearing bed as a Murphy bed to this day.



Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. We just bought a Rockwood 2509S. The Murphy means we can have a sofa and queen bed in a 26’ trailer. Replaced the crappy mattress with a Costco mattress and it works just great for us. Thanks Mr. Murphy!

  2. Had a Murphy bed once. Wife loved it but I hated it. Told her we’d try it for one year. One year and one month later it was gone on a trade. Good riddance.

  3. A Safari Trek’s signature feature is a bed that electrically raises and stores in the ceiling during the day. This feature allows the class A rig to have the same living space as a traditional rig ten feet longer.
    Safari Treks were built from 1991 to 2008. We have a great informative and helpful forum called Trek Tracks. Many claim the forum is the best feature their Trek came with Trek Tracks – Index (

  4. On my 40′ 1.5 Bath Monaco… When the bedroom slide was retracted, I didn’t like the foot of the bed being flush against the curb-side drawers making the drawers inaccessible. Also with it retracted, the only way to access the rear bath was to crawl over the bed. I re-engineered the bed platform by cutting it in half and added hinges. The bed folds over to less than half its original length. We exchanged the original mattress for an air mattress. Not exactly a Murphy, but the same concept. It only less than 1 minute to set-up or stow-away the bed.


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