And your special subject is …… the history of coat hangers!
An unlikely subject for a BBC chat show, perhaps. But this was the subject CDC’s marketing manager John Blake was asked to discuss on the Joanne Good Show on BBC Radio London on April 25th.
The official history of coat hangers only begins in the 1800s, with the patenting of the wire hanger in 1869 and later in 1903 by Albert J. Parkhouse (who was concerned that his work colleagues had nowhere to hang their coats). It is possible a wooden hanger was ‘invented’ earlier by Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the USA, who liked his clothes and was a dab hand at inventing things.
What happened before that is one of history’s great mysteries. While most people wouldn’t have had a spare set of clothes to hang, it seems odd that so little survives about how the privileged few looked after their ostentatious dress when not in use. As Sir John Vanbrugh says in a play called ‘The Suitor’ in 1704, ‘T’is a poorly fellow who hath not a hanger for his cloak’. Such sentiments must have been shared by most of the aristocracy, who would hardly want their clothes to look as if they had just been picked up from a crumpled heap on the floor.
It is easy to imagine the CDC’s quality hangers gracing the wardrobes of the rich in a bygone age. Our wooden hanger range includes several ‘heritage’ hangers that would be quite at home in the wardrobes of Downton, whilst our classy black or ivory satin padded hangers would have helped any of Jane Austin’s heroines to cut a fine figure and attract the attention of a ‘single man in possession of a good fortune’ (Pride and Prejudice).
Jo Good was delighted to hear that there is more to coat hangers (past and present) than the wire ‘dry cleaner’ hanger that dominates recorded history. That said, Professor Angus Wallace phoned in to recount how in 1995, at 35,000 feet, he saved the life of a fellow passenger who had suffered a collapsed lung on the way back from Hong Kong, with the aid of a wire hanger and a urinary catheter! We have to admit that most of CDC’s hangers, whether heritage or stylish contemporary, would probably do more harm than good in thisrather unusual situation!
After the show, John said ‘Although I initially thought the phone call inviting us on the radio was a prank, the show was a wonderful experience and I was honoured to be asked. I’ve done two history degrees, but neither included a course on coat hangers, so the research was fascinating! Many thanks to Jo Good for promoting the history of the humble hanger, as well as for her excellent taste in coat hangers’.