Tag Archives: inventions

Just Hangin’ – The History of the Humble Coat Hanger

Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever looked at one of the objects that we use without thinking every day, and wondered who came up with the invention?  I do, and yesterday as I was putting the empty coat hangers from my clothes for the day into my closet (yes, Mark, I do remember to do that occasionally!) I suddenly wondered where coat hangers come from.

Several websites (all of whom, I think, were copying Wikipedia’s entry) say that Thomas Jefferson was believed to have invented a forerunner of the wooden clothes hanger.  However, the foremost authority on all things Thomas Jefferson, the Monticello website, disagrees.  According to the Monticello web site, there is no evidence that Thomas Jefferson invented the individual clothes hangers similar to what we use today, but he did invent the most ingenious closet gadget which allowed him to hang and access over 48 sets of coats, waist coats and other clothing easily.  While the device did not survive the ravages of time, the researchers at Monticello, relying on help from The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia have come up with a conjectural drawing of what this revolving closet might have looked like.

Thomas Jefferson, coat hanger, clothes rack

Thomas Jefferson’s Revolving Closet Rack
From http://www.monticello.org

Apparently, one of the first patents for a device similar to today’s coat hangers was issued in 1869 to O.A. North, from New Britain Connecticut.  unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate that patent or the drawing that should be with the patent – records that old at the United States Patent Office are listed by year, classification and patent number only rather than by key word.  Over 13,000 patents were issued in 1869 alone!

Until 1903, coat hangers were made of wood supported by other materials.  The ubiquitous wire coat hanger was apparently first designed by Albert J. Parkhouse in 1903.  Parkhouse was an employee of the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson, Michigan.  His co-employees were unhappy because the company did not have enough coat hooks, so many of their heavy winter coats would fall to the floor during their work shift.  Mr. Parkhouse grabbed a length of wire, twisted it so that one end had a hook on it, there were two ovals below that, and then the other end of the wire was twisted around the stem of the hook.

Coat Hanger, Patent. Invention

The First Wire Coat Hanger

In keeping with the custom of the day, Parkhouse’s employer, Timberlake, patented the idea and reaped the profits.  After a few years, Albert Parkhouse  (perhaps realizing that it is cold in Michigan in winter and not that cold somewhere else) moved his family to Los Angeles where he started his own wire novelty company.  He died at the age of 48 from a ruptured ulcer.

Over the years, many other patents have been issued for designs that improved the original one, to where today the variety of coat hangers is overwhelming.  However, the wire coat hanger is the champion of them all, beloved by dry cleaners everywhere and collecting in our closets in prolific amounts.

Many  Hangers Photogrpah by:  "Grucce" by A7N8X - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grucce.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Grucce.jpg

Many Hangers
Photograph by:
“Grucce” by A7N8X – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Have a great day!



Where are They? Inventions I Eagerly Await

Good morning Everyone!

While I have my issues with technology (see, Please stop Improving my Life I and II), there are certain inventions I eagerly await. 

I already mentioned, in an earlier post, the riding vacuum cleaner (Differences Between Men and Women)but there are a few more I think the inventors of this world should be working on.

1)  A car that drives itself where I want it to go.  In the last two days, I have driven about five hours total.  How nice it would be to have a car that just took care of all the driving, and let me use that time productively for things like napping, cross-stitch or playing computer games.  However, this is merely a short-term solution to commuting problems, as I believe the second invention is the long-term answer.


2) The transporter from Star Trek.  It is hard to believe that something envisioned in the 1960’s has yet to be invented.  Of course, I realize there are some fundamental rules of physics that have to be gotten around, re-explained, or discovered, but still!  Instant transportation from one place to another is worth it.  Just think how much more time we could spend doing important things like tail-gating at football games, standing in line at Disneyworld (rather than spending time driving to Disneyworld) or shopping for the latest gizmos instead of the time we spend commuting. 

Climate Control Device!

3)  A personal climate control machine no bigger than a pedometer.  At this time of the year, those of us in the Southeast spend a great deal of time calculating our routes so that we end up spending as little time as possible out-of-doors (unless the beach or lake is involved) to allow us to remain in air-conditioned comfort.  I don’t know this for certain, but I expect those of you who encounter extremely cold weather during the year do the same with heat.  Imagine if you could clip something about the size of the pedometer on your waist, set the temperature, and enjoy that temperature all day long, no matter where you are.  I think that would be really cool (no pun intended!)

Country Cooler Drive Thru Convenience Store, Hollister Florida

4)   The drive-through grocery store window.  (Apparently, this concept is in the testing phase; an internet search revealed that an increasing number of convenience stores, especially in Florida, are trying this out.)  Every parent who has ever traveled to or through the grocery store with young (or even not so young) children can understand the appeal of being able to call the grocery store in advance, tell the clerk exactly what you want, pull up to a window, receive your items and pay for them, all without having to do the “No” song through the aisles.  No, you can’t have Oreos; No, you can’t have Cocoa Puffs; No, you can’t have rutabagas (you don’t even know what they are); No, you can’t have that cheap $5 toy that will fall apart as soon as we get it home; No, you can’t have your fifth package of mints this week (that’s for my daughter).

It also is helpful for those who, like me, enter the grocery store for milk and lettuce, fall into a strange trance, and emerge on the other side with two carts full of groceries and no idea what they are or how they got there!

5) An integrated clothes cleaning system that will sort the clothes, wash the clothes, dry the clothes  and fold the clothes or iron them as needed.   My current system, my 9 year old, leaves something to be desired.  (Just kidding – we don’t let her iron – yet.)  I am willing to continue to put them away however.  

6)  A computer that will allow me to win an argument with it.  Currently, once it starts beeping and sending me error messages, the computer wins. 

7)   Failing that, a computer that will do what I want it to do, not necessarily what I tell it do. 

8)   A money tree.  If it was prolific enough, I would be willing to share! 

Any inventions you might like to see?  Future inventors of America, take note!

Have a great day everyone!