Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in Science and Technology

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Folding Cabinet Bed patent image, 1885.

Courtesy of U.S. Patent Office

Sarah E. Goode was the first African American woman to win a patent, which she received in 1885 for her “Folding Cabinet Bed” (Patent No. 322,177), an efficiency device that formed a desk with drawers from a collapsed mattress. While little is known about Goode’s early life, she was born in the south (and, likely into slavery) in the 1850s, arriving in Chicago by the early 1880s. As the migration of African Americans to Chicago and other industrial cities of the north continued unabated, Goode found a successful enterprise in her furniture store. Strict restrictions on black neighborhood settlement coupled with the influx of newcomers brought inflated rents and cramped apartments, and, developed specifically for the purpose of space-saving, Goode’s design aimed to directly remedy these widespread difficulties. In 1919, a cramped San Francisco resident named William Murphy would update Goode’s space-saving bed with his own patent, though Murphy’s invention folded into a wall.

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