Origins of ordinary things: Hangers

When you iron your clothes and you want to keep them wrinkle-free, you put them on a triangular shaped object which is held up by a hook. This object is common to households around the world. It is known as a hanger. Not only does it keep clothes looking neat, it also keeps them organised so that you don’t have to rummage through your belongings every time you are looking for a piece of clothing.

In the early 15th Century, the word “hanger” was used to refer to a person (especially an executioner) whose role was to hang criminal convicts. However, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the meaning evolved to “thing from which something is hung” in the late 17th Century and eventually, the word was to refer to wooden or wire coat hangers in the mid-19th Century.

Broadly, a media platform credits American inventor O.A North with the inventing the hanger in 1860. He reportedly made the product to save space in his wardrobe. However, because North’s invention was unlike the modern day hanger, American inventor Albert J. Parkhouse receives praise because his design is the kind that is in use today.

According to Wikipedia, an encyclopedia, the idea of a hanger came to Parkhouse when he arrived at work one day and found that all coat hooks were taken. He then put together a piece of wire and made the hanger. This was in 1903.  

In 1904, John B. Timberlake, the owner of the company where Parkhouse was employed, received the patent for the hanger. Unfortunately, Parkhouse did not profit from his invention because during that time, companies could own their employees’ inventions. This is according to Idea Finder, an information dissemination platform.

Over the years, inventors have improved the design of the hanger without changing much about its appearance. For example, according to ThoughtCo, a knowledge resource, Elmer D Rogers, an inventor, is the brain behind the tube on the lower bar of a hanger, while Thomas Jefferson, a famous American inventor, made the first wooden coat hanger.

According to Hanger World, a hanger manufacturing company, other materials which have been used to create the product include metal, plastic, satin and velvet. Inventors also made collapsible hangers, and those with hooks to hold the clothes firmly in place or to create space for belts.

Soft Schools, an education site, predicts that the original design and function of the hanger are unlikely to change for many years to come and that it is likely to remain a common household item across the world.