Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bed in a Box

QUESTION:  My grandmother had a “bed in a box” that we used to sleep on as children when we would come to visit. My brother has it currently, but I amin the process of trying to get it home. We believe it is between 100-200 lbs and I think it is walnut. It is a 3x3 foot cube 23 inches deep and it is just a cot that rolls into a two-doored cabinet. I have always loved it, and it’s one of the few things I wanted when my grandma passed. I was wondering if you have any information for me because I can't find anything about it.

To save space, furniture makers over the 125 years or so have come up with some ingenious devices. The “bed in a box” the person mentions above is just one of the unique ways that city dwellers found to get more people into a room. When immigrants began arriving in greater numbers in the latter part of the 19th century, whole families often had to live in one room–eating, relaxing, and sleeping in the same space.

The first person to become aware of this problem was Sarah Goode, the owner of a furniture store in Chicago. She invented a folding cabinet bed that when not in use looked like a desk standing against the wall and became the first African American woman to receive a U.S. patent for her invention on July 14, 1885.

Since city apartment dwellers often had little space for beds, Goode and others created variations on what we now call the “hideaway” bed. Goode’s design was far more elaborate than a bed-in-a-box. Her folding bed unit had hinged sections that were easily raised or lowered by an adult.

Cabinet beds, like sofa beds, are another innovation along the same lines. Essentially, when the cabinet folds down, it changes shape revealing a bed. You'll also notice that the design of the furniture is similar to that found in early Sears catalogs. Many of these pieces were manufactured in Indiana. Another variation was the rolling trundle bed. This large rectangular box rolled under high late 18th and early 19th-century beds for storage during the day. At night, an adult or child would pull on a rope and drag the bed out for sleeping.

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