Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chariton Cemetery and the Murphy Bed

Not going to even bring up "eternal rest" --- way too tacky --- even though there is a link between the Chariton Cemetery and the Murphy Bed.

Remember those beds? Widely popular during the 1920s and 1930s --- and still being manufactured in various forms today --- they fold up vertically, then disappear. The most popular Hollywood images from that era involved a recess in the wall into which they folded before a door was closed to conceal them. Most manufactured today disappear into free-standing pieces of furniture or custom cabinetry.

Anyhow, a guy named William L. Murphy, a native Californian born Jan. 1, 1876, invented the bed at the turn of the 20th Century in San Francisco. He was living in a one-room apartment at the time, much of it occupied by a bed. But he wanted to entertain. So he came up with the idea of a folding bed, applied for his first patent about 1900 and the Murphy Door Bed Co. was born. You can read more about the history of the bed on the Web page of Murphy Bed Co. Inc., located here.

In 1918, William L. invented the pivot bed --- it pivoted on the doorjamb of a closet and then was lowered into sleeping position.

The company moved to New York City in 1925 as the Murphy Door Bed Co. and although the name was shortened in 1990 to Murphy Bed Co., it still operates in the neighborhood --- corporate offices, manufacturing plant and warehouses are in Farmingdale, on Long Island.

Chariton enters the picture somewhat obliquely about 1940, when Catherine "Kay" Clark transferred from the University of Iowa to Barnard College, in New York City. At the time her parents, O.A. and Sylvesta Clark, owned the Hotel Charitone and her older brother, Jack, was managing it.

She was born Sept. 6, 1919, in Clarinda and spent her childhood moving from town to town in southern Iowa, finally Ottumwa --- living near whichever of the family hotels her father was managing.

While in New York, Kay met William K. Murphy, son of Murphy Bed inventor William L. Murphy. They were married in Ottumwa, then returned to New York where he was associated with the family firm. 

William K. Murphy returned to the firm after service during World War II and in 1959, upon the death of his father, became its president --- a position he held until 1983, when he died.

Kay Clark had been a frequent visitor to Chariton and the Hotel Charitone since 1931, when her father took control of the business. Those frequent visits, after the war with her husband and their son, Clark W. Murphy, continued until 1965 --- during the years her brother, Jack, managed and later owned the Charitone.  Her mother, Sylvesta, was brought to the Chariton Cemetery from Ottumwa for burial during 1950.

When William L. Clark died during 1983, the decision was made to bring his remains from New York to Chariton for burial on the Clark family lot. Other family members also buried there by that time in addition to Sylvesta Clark included Kay (Clark) Murphy's stepmother, Elizabeth, and brothers, Jack and Ford. O.A. Clark was buried there in 1988.

Kay Murphy became more active in the business after her husband's death, but moved to Midland, Texas, in 1987 and died there on Nov. 28, 2005. Her remains, too, were brought to Chariton --- and buried beside those of her husband. 

She was survived by her brother, George E. Clark, also of Midland, and her son Clark, who had assumed management of the Murphy Bed Co. upon his father's death.


Brenda said...

Interesting! Did the Charitone have any Murphy beds?

Frank D. Myers said...

As far as we know, no Murphy beds.

Katherine Bertram said...

I've always wanted one ever since seeing them on Perfect Strangers as a kid.