The Invention of the Folding Cabinet Bed – 1885


In the late 19th century, Sarah E. Goode, an African American entrepreneur, inventor, and visionary, introduced a ground-breaking piece of furniture that would revolutionize the way people utilized their living spaces.

Her invention, the Folding Cabinet Bed, not only addressed the challenges of space constraints in urban areas but also played a pivotal role in shaping the furniture industry and the housing landscape in the United States.

The invention of the Folding Bed was a remarkable breakthrough in the field of furniture design. This space-saving innovation offered a comfortable bed that could be easily transformed into a functional piece of cabinetry during the daytime.

Sarah E. Goode

Sarah Elizabeth Jacobs was born in Toledo, Ohio, around 1855, during a time when opportunities for African American women were severely limited due to racial and gender discrimination. Despite these daunting challenges, Goode demonstrated resilience and an entrepreneurial spirit that would eventually lead her to make a significant mark in American history.

Goode’s early life is not extensively documented, but it is believed that she married a man named Archibald Goode, a carpenter, and together they opened a furniture store in Chicago.

It is clear that Sarah possessed a keen interest in business and innovation from a young age. She recognized the need for practical solutions to everyday problems, particularly in the context of cramped living spaces in urban environments.

The Folding Cabinet-Bed

Her Cabinet Bed was designed to maximize space utilization, making it an ideal choice for small apartments, urban homes, and families with limited living space.

It allowed for a seamless transition between the day and night functions of a room without the need for a separate bedroom. The design of the Folding Bed was aesthetically pleasing and could be customized to match various interior décor styles. Its stylish appearance made it an attractive addition to any room, blending seamlessly with other furniture.

The Patent

On July 14, 1885, Sarah E. Goode was granted US Patent No. 322,177 for her innovative Folding Cabinet Bed. This patent recognized her as the inventor of a “cabinet-bed” and provided legal protection for her invention.

The patent also highlighted the unique design features and mechanisms of the Folding Cabinet Bed, which included its ability to transform from a cabinet to a bed with ease.  

Sarah Elisabeth Jacobs Goode died in Chicago in 1905 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery.


Goode’s invention challenged traditional furniture design conventions, inspiring other innovators to explore space-saving solutions. The Folding Cabinet Bed laid the foundation for the development of modern fold-out beds and sofa beds, which are now staples in many households.

In 2012, the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy was opened in her honour on the south side of Chicago.

Historical Misconceptions

Sarah E. Goode is often cited as the first African American woman to receive a United States patent. This does not appear to be the case. That honour appears to belong to Judy W. Reed, who applied for a patent on her “Dough Kneader and Roller.”

This image is often circulated as Sarah E. Goode. This attribution is incorrect. The Images appears to be that of Edmonia Lewis, a 19th-century sculptor who ended up working in Italy with a remarkable story of her own.

Edmonia Lewis
Edmonia Lewis

Another image attributed as Sarah E. Goode is this one, which clearly does not portray an African American Woman. The image comes from a 2010 blog of a family who was chronicling their history in Wyoming. The two women shared a name, but they are clearly different people.

A completely different Sarah E. Goode
A completely different Sarah E. Goode

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