from patent #1,030,201

Wall beds, also known as Murphy beds, are beds that are designed to fold up into a closet or cabinet when not in use. Wall beds from different manufacturers were used in a large number of apartments around Oakland. Brands used locally include Marshall and Stearns (or Marshall-Stearns), Simmons, and Rip Van Winkle. The California Wall Bed Company manufactured beds locally for a time. There were also different disappearing beds, which slid into hidden spaces when not in use.

Murphy beds are named for William Lawrence Murphy, an Irish immigrant in San Francisco who needed to find a creative method of making space in his small apartment. 1 He was not the inventor of disappearing beds, but filed a number of patents around 1900.

It's worth noting that Sarah E. Goode was the first Black woman to be granted a patent. In 1885 she was granted a patent for a cabinet bed, which could be used as a desk when not in use as a bed.

"It appears that the art of constructing disappearing or concealed beds has been followed over a period of more than 70 years, during which time more than 800 patents have been issued for inventions in improved structure in such devices." 2

The earliest references to wall beds in the Tribune appear around 1906. One of the first references to a specific brand came in 1907 in an ad for rooms at the Muri-Ell Apartments which refers to Marshall-Stearns patent beds. 3

California Wall Bed Company

The California Wall Bed Company started in the early 1920s, with classified ads for 165 - 13th Street appearing in 1920. In 1922, they announced they were purchasing the former Western Casket Company building at 165 - 13th and would remodel it into a wall bed factory. California Wall Beds were used in the Forest Apartments (1923) and the Trestle Glen Apartments (1923), among others.

The factory on 13th Street was badly damaged in a fire set by Willie Fisher in 1928, and references to the company drop off after that.

1922 ad1924 ad 1924 ad

Marshall and Stearns

It appears Marshall and Stearns started in the real estate in Los Angeles in the early 1900s. By 1904, they were also running ads for W.C. James patented fixtures as a way for landlords to help maximize "economy of space" and "profitable rents". 4 By 1906 they were running ads referring to Marshall and Stearns Company patented wall beds, and had offices in San Francisco and San Diego. 5 At some point they opened a branch in Oakland; c.1918-1923, their Oakland branch was at 1774 Broadway. They later called their beds Add-A-Room beds.

c.1922 ad from Western Architect and Engineer1922192219221929



Simmons wall beds were distributed by the Rip Van Winkle Wall Bed Co. in northern California, and later by O'Keeffe and Company.


The Inco Wall Bed Agency appears in exactly one new apartment listing in Oakland, the Rudonia Apartments in 1929. 6 This despite a 1926 classified noting they were closing their Oakland store. 7

Relatively few mentions can be found in any newspapers available on except around Los Angeles.

1929 6

Holmes Disappearing Bed

The Holmes Disappearing Bed was designed to be rolled out of site when not in use. Lawrence Holmes filed for a patent in 1908, and patent #1033401A was granted in 1912.

They were used in at least one apartment building in Oakland, the Casa Rosa Apartments which opened in 1909.


Links and References

  1. Murphy bed on Wikipedia
  2. Rip Van Winkle Wall Bed Co. v. Holmes (1926)
  3. The Muri Ell Oakland Tribune September 1, 1907
  4. ad Los Angeles Times May 15, 1904
  5. ad Los Angeles Times July 22, 1906
  6. ad Oakland Tribune October 13, 1929
  7. ad Oakland Tribune March 25, 1926

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