The Murphy bed is named after William Lawrence Murphy (1876–1957.)The first patents were applied for around 1900.

The popular legend is that he was living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco. The moral code of the time frowned upon a woman entering a man’s bedroom. Murphy’s invention allowed him to claim that his bedroom was actually a parlor, enabling him to entertain.

Foldup beds had existed prior to Murphy’s invention. They were even available through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. Murphy’s invention introduced pivot and counterbalanced designs for which he received a series of patents, including one for a “Disappearing Bed” in 1912 and another for a “Design for a Bed” in 1916.

Murphy beds are used for space-saving purposes. They are found in rooms where floor space is limited such as small homes, apartments, hotels, mobile homes and college dormitories.

Murphy bed are now available with multiple options including lighting, storage cabinets, and office components.

In 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” was no longer eligible for trademark protection. The court stated that the term had entered common usage and was used as a generic description for all folding wall beds.