History Of The Clothes Hanger Posted on 08 Aug 17:25
By Michael Wernicke
You probably rarely give it much thought, however did you realise there is hardly a product you use as much as your clothes hangers. Most of us use them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For many they lovingly support our clothing investment - often hundreds and thousands of dollars’ worth - some of our most prized possessions. Socially speaking this invention has given us the ability to evolve in today's consumerist society - enabling us to buy more precious clothing from our fashion conscious cities and storing them in our over crowded dwelling spaces.
So have you ever stopped to consider where the clothes hanger originally came from? Who originally invented this humble little device? What year was it invented?
Whilst some historians believe that the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, invented a crude predecessor to the coat hanger, it is widely believed that today’s coat hangers with the hook and shoulder shape was inspired sometime later following the invention of the coat hook by O.A. North of Connecticut, USA in 1869. So pretty recently really.
Early attempts to develop a coat hanger into a practical hanging device soon developed with a variety of patents being filed with the US patents office. This early device below appears like it could have been used in conjunction with the clothes hook.
However, in 1903 at the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson Mississippi an employee named Albert J. Parkhouse decided that the coat hook needed a firm evolutionary advancement. He took a simple piece of wire and shaped two ovals then twisted them together. He finished the contraption with a bent hook shape at the top which enabled the hanger to be hung over a bar. This was the first known design which most closely reflects the common wire coat hanger designs of today. This revolutionary hook design when used with a hanging bar, enabled many more clothes to be stored together in one place.
This started a revolution of design ideas over the ensuing decades. The more rigid variation of the design (depicted below) incorporated timber and further wire support struts to add strength and durability.
In 1932, Schuyler C. Hulett mounted cardboard tubes on the wire sections which supported the clothing in order to prevent excess wrinkling. You will often see this design used today when receiving your dry cleaning back. You will note how by 1932 the more modern wire hanger shape of today was in use.
In 1965, Gerhard Wieckmann filed a patent for a revolutionary new hanger that still had a wire hook, however used a new design wooden frame. This wooden frame was developed to minimise the creases in clothing caused by wire hangers and to increase the hanger’s robustness. Additionally, the wider wood shape would help overcome problems caused by cardboard tubes displacing from the wire hanger frames - a problem with its predecessor. This version of the hanger whilst slightly costlier would have a much greater lifespan. Other versions within this patent would also incorporate moldable foam which could provide the advantages of the wooden hanger, however at a lower cost. Look in Figures 3 and 5 below - you might recognise wooden hangers with this shape in your wardrobe today.
In 1967, J.H Batts filed a patent for a moulded plastic hanger which would not only lower production costs but would increase the hanger’s durability - the contoured design enabled it to hold heavier items such as suit jackets and pants with greater sturdiness - whilst enabling garments to maintain their natural shape.
With the proliferation of retail stores in the latter half of the 20th century, coat hangers have seen a revolution from ugly device to sightlier display pieces which can incorporate retail brand names as part of their advertising.
Through this time, in addition to broader and stronger structures, clothes hangers have evolved to incorporate clips, notches and pant bars in order to accommodate new clothing styles, preventing slippages and minimise creasing. Today hangers come in all manner of shapes and sizes in an attempt to balance budget, versatility, robustness and aesthetic appeal.
In the 21st Century, it is the goal of Henkerman to evolve the humble hanger further – taking it from laundry necessity to gorgeous home wardrobe centrepiece.
Here’s to our journey. Please visit us at www.henkerman.com