Wooden coat hangers were commonly used to organize wardrobes during the early days. Hangers are said to have been invented in 1869 by O. A. North of New Britain, Connecticut.
The invention of the wire coat hanger has an interesting story behind it. Albert J. Parkhouse was an employee at Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson, Michigan. The company specialized in making lampshade frames and other wire items. One morning in 1903, when Parkhouse arrived for work, he found that all the coat hooks were occupied.
Annoyed, he picked up a piece of wire, bent it into two large oblong hoops opposite each other and twisted both ends at the center into a hook. This creative idea which came out of frustration went on become hugely popular in households. At that time companies were allowed to take out patents on any of their employees’ inventions. It so happened that his company took up his idea and went on patent the product in 1904. The company made a huge fortune out of it. Parkhouse never got a penny!
In 1906, Meyer May, a men’s clothier in Michigan, became the first retailer to display clothes in his store on the wire hanger. In 1932, Schuyler C. Hulett received a patent in 1932 for an improvement on the hanger in which he mounted cardboard tubes on the upper and lower parts of the wire to prevent wrinkles in freshly laundered clothes.
The humble coat hanger which has seen many transformations and improvements over a period of time has become a necessity in today’s households.