Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America’s past. These stories are about Americans—people just like you—who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you.


Sarah E. Goode, (ca.1850-1909), Inventor

  • First African-American woman to get a patent

Sarah Jacob was born into slavery in about 1850; she gained her freedom at the end of the Civil War and moved to Chicago shortly after.  In Chicago she met and married Archibald Goode, a carpenter.

The idea of being married to a carpenter and starting a furniture store must have seemed natural, there would have been nothing natural about a woman, a former slave, running the shop.  Despite this, Sarah built a thriving and well-known business.

In working with her customers, she heard their needs and that led to her invention: a cabinet bed or a fold-a-way bed.  Her customers lived in small apartments and needed to maximize their space.  Sarah worked out a design for a bed that could be used for sleeping during the night but converted into a rolltop desk during the day. The bed, complete with mattress and spring support, was attached by hinges and could be raised or lowered as needed. Because it was a rolltop it also provided storage.

On July 14, 1885, Sarah E. Goode, became the first African-American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent And Trademark Office (Patent #322,17), for her invention, the cabinet bed. Today we have the Murphy bed and the hide-away bed/couch as a result.

Sarah Goode Died January 25, 1909.

Not much else is known about Sarah Goode’s life or her store, but as I kept looking I did find an interesting footnote of sorts…  While there have been many African-American inventors of both genders since Sarah’ s time, I thought I would mention just one other woman I found: The first African-American woman doctor to patent a medical device was Patricia Bath (1942-  ).  She grew up in Harlem; her father was the first African-American subway motorman. She overcame color and gender barriers to becoming a doctor, and in 1988 she received a patent for a device she had been working on for 8 years., a Laserphaco Probe.  This is a laser device that removes cataracts easily and makes it easy for the ophthalmologist to insert a new lens.  Bath is still alive and continues to work on improvements.  She holds three patents on the laser device and in 2000 she was granted a patent for a device to remove cataracts using ultrasound.

Another great accomplishment for which we can be grateful.

To read about another important African-American woman who was an inventor, read about Marjorie Stewart Joyner, who invented a hair-waving machine.

 



36 thoughts on “Sarah E. Goode, (ca.1850-1909), Inventor”

  1. this has been a great help for me as a sophomore its easy for everyone to understand and its so true and it has taught me a lot about sarah e goode i didnt even know she existed until i read all of this thank you soooo much for creating this website.

  2. Good luck with your project Robert! The illustration of her invention helps you understand what she had in mind. Sadly there are no photographs of her because this would have been very early in the days of photography. Sarah was smart!

  3. all of this stuff is help thank you i wish you would tipe to us more because you type good stuff to us when were sad and you make us happ again with what you type thank you. :)

  4. Oh, I hope you’re not sad! You’re working hard in school and that’s what is important! We all get sad some times but it helps to think about things you like to do or people you like to be with… I have to go to the dentist now or I would type more but I am thinking of you! My daughters’ friends were sometimes mean to them but then 2 hours later, everything would be OK. I hope that happens for you.

  5. thank you kate you are the best and everyday I think of you thankyou.:) sincerely Robert romero.one more thing your the best person ever!

  6. Hi Robert I am out of my office today but leave me any questions you have and I will answer you tomorrow.

  7. I am searching for the parents of my great-grandmother Maude (?E or I) Goode-Olson.
    Could Sarah have been her mother?
    She and Archie were said to have 6 children, 3 of whom lived into adulthood.
    Maude could have been the 2 year old Inza M. Goode born reported Abt 1876 in Illinois.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Hi Leanne,
    I truly wish I could help but there is so little information about Sarah. I took a quick look on ancestry.com you are way ahead on what you know. I expect your best answers will come from those people also doing genealogy who may be able to confirm or deny what you’re finding.
    Thank you for visiting the site and so sorry not to be able to help.

    Kate

  9. Sarah, I’m sorry but there are no details about her personal life or family, other than what I have included. No newspaper would have interviewed her, and unless she left a journal or some type of document that survived, we have no way to know much about the other details of her life. It’s frustrating for me, too! But your teacher will understand. That’s also why there is no photograph or sketch of her.

  10. you don’t need to reply. I love this site and thanks for the help! I got an A!!!! thanks Kate Kelly

  11. Are there any pictures or instructions in how the bed/desk work? I haven’t seen any beds that fold up into a roll top desk. I think that is a great idea. I’m wondering why they aren’t around anymore. I’ve seen murphy beds but I really like Sarahs idea better.

  12. Hi Pat,
    I’m sorry for my delay in answering you. I agree that a bed that doubles as something like a desk is a great idea. I think the best way to provide you with answers is by letting you examine Sarah’s patent. Illustrations are always required—and at one point, working models were too, but I don’t think hers survived). At any rate, this provides you with her method of constructing it as well as the working illustrations. If you make one, we’d love to see a photo!
    Link to the U.S. patent:
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US322177A/en?q=sarah+goode

    Kate

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