And thereby hangs a tale

The Versailles Hotel, Miami Beach, FL

Is it possible to explore history and art through the study of something as ubiquitous and mundane as the coat hanger?  A utilitarian artifact of human design?

While cleaning out our closets I discovered some vintage clothes hangers with aesthetic appeal and a story to tell.  A wooden hanger stamped with the name of the Versailles Hotel in Miami Beach (“On the Ocean at 35th Street”) is, I suspect, a souvenir from my in-laws 1940s honeymoon trip to Florida, a memorable event immortalized by a plague of Palmetto Bugs

Image:  Courtesy of Florida Memory State Library & Archives of Florida.

Who Invented The Coat Hanger? Today’s wire coat hanger was inspired by a clothes hook patented in 1869, by O. A. North of New Britain, Connecticut. Albert J. Parkhouse, an employee of Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson, Michigan, created a coat hanger in 1903, in response to co-workers’ complaints of too few coat hooks. He bent a piece of wire into two ovals with the ends twisted together to form a hook. Parkhouse patented his invention, but it is not known if he profited from it.

Another hanger taken from our closet, of smooth varnished wood in that familiar flattened bell-curve design, has a wooden dowel suspended by twisted wire to hold the matching pants to a man’s suit jacket:  “Look for the Kuppenheimer Label”.   Decades ago a suit designed by the House of Kuppenheimer decorated this very hanger.

In 1991, an exhibition titled “Out of the Closet: American Hangers” was held at the Ricco-Maresca Gallery, 105 Hudson Street near Franklin Street in TriBeCa.  The exhibition exhibited antique hangers from the collection of Harris Diamant:

These are not the kind the dry cleaning comes on. These are hangers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hangers to be proud of. Shaker hangers. Old-fashioned collapsible travel hangers. Hangers for blocking sweaters on. Even the wire hangers are esthetically pleasing enough that Joan Crawford might have allowed a few into her closets. (Then again, maybe not.)

Clothes hangers do indeed possess aesthetic appeal.  Check out these contemporary examples:

This year, Great American Hanger Co. sent out its first consumer mail-order catalog; sales are projected to reach $10 million, up from $7.5 million in 2006. The Hanger Project, a year-old retailer, recently placed a wholesale order for 10,000 hangers; it’s first, last fall. was for 800 Premium hangers boast details like extrawide shoulders, flocked, nonslip trouser bars, a range of widths to accommodate different suit sizes, and a variety of finishes to match your closet. Oh, and they cost as much as $35. Each.    Via

Check out this coat hanger art via InventorSpot.  And these Clothes Hanger Chandeliers by Organelle Design.

Finally, there’s the hanger that comes from the Renew’ry dry cleaners at 2430 Jerome Ave. in the Bronx (“For QUALITY Dry Cleaning or Pressing, Phone SED 3-2737″).  Another family heirloom.  The wooden hanger holds its own aesthetic appeal, smooth to the touch, black-inked letters pressed into the wood.


Stories:  Collecting Old Clothes Hangers


18 Modern Clothes Hanger Designs

The Clothes Hanger: And Thereby Hangs the Tale

Image credit:  The House of Kuppenheimer, 1906.  “Courtesy of The New York Public Library.”


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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The History of the Hanger
  2. Ken Januski
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 00:31:27

    And if your regular old wire hangers eventually wear out you can use this tool to make useful things out of them. You wouldn’t believe how handy a wire bender can be!

    I know this might sound like my trying to sneak in a free advertisement for Lee Valley Tools but it’s not. Most of our bird feeders hang from special hooks made from old clothes hangers reshaped with this simple tool. I do like Lee Valley though!


  3. steve
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 22:11:50

    Love the older looing varnished hangar…i know its very joan crawford but i hate wire hangers…..didnt know there was a market for hangers like their are…but this is why you have the most artistic blog in the blogosphere…love the new setup..seems like the season that everyone is changing there setup….zman sends


  4. MadSilence to&w
    Feb 14, 2010 @ 00:12:43

    Ken, the Wire Bender looks handy, the type of tool my Dad would’ve loved. We recycle wire hangers, plastic bags from the supermarket, etc.

    Steve, check out the Clothes Hanger Chandeliers by Organelle Design. Fantastic!


  5. terrysthinking
    Feb 15, 2010 @ 03:35:45

    Thanks for an interesting collection of material about coat hangers.

    Any idea what the most popular material type of hanger is (wood, plastic, metal)? Does it vary by country?

    Thanks for the insight into our trusty closet helpers.


  6. Trackback: Instructions for Obstruction « MadSilence
  7. How to choose right clothing hangers
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 12:01:26

    Choosing the right clothes hangers, you should follow these rules. Firstly, you need to know the Garment Type different coat hangers have different style and they are suit for specific type of garments. Secondly. Material, which is very important factor of choosing right cloth hangers we should us different material in different enviorments. Thirdly. Space, some coat hangers are really saving spaces so for those house holders who want more space for your closet slim hangers, plastic hangers, or metal hangers are the right choice.


  8. Spike
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 12:20:03

    First of all, wooden hanger is better for clothing. Compared with a wire hanger; you can find a wooden hanger is designed for all of your clothing. Because of the special clips for slacks and skirts; wooden hangers would significantly prevent wrinkles, which would reduce your amount of ironing and extend the life of your clothing. What is more, wooden hanger is better for winter coats. Winter coats are heavy and will put a great deal of weight on your hanger which can result in damage or breakage of the hanger. Thin hangers shouldn’t even be considered and wooden hanger is a better choice. Secondly, wooden hanger is easy to work with. Because of the difference of structure and material, wire hangers are supple and will bend under the weight of the clothing they are holding. A wooden hanger just will not do that under any circumstance. In addition, wooden clothes hangers tend to be a better choice in the sense that they could support a complete outfit. Instead of using a separate hanger for every element of an outfit, it is convenient to hang all pieces on one hanger. This results in a better usage of your closet space. A wooden hanger will ensure that your clothing lasts significantly longer than if you use a wire hanger. This is important if your wardrobe includes fine articles of clothing. Thirdly, wooden hanger is economical and practical. As wooden hangers will endure plenty longer than synthetic hangers such as plastic and you do not need to constantly replace them. This results in a reduction of your time and your cash. What is more, you get the bonus feature of fancy wooden hangers. It is human nature that you are not willing to hang up your best suit on a plastic or wire hanger. Special clothes deserve the style of a wooden hanger.A wooden hanger is better for clothing and also does a better job of preventing wrinkles and keeping clothing looking nicer than a wire hanger.


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