A Historical Hangup
January 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
The Lawrence/Dana-Thomas House offers history lessons in the most unexpected places. For example, the windowless cavernous coat room on the lowest level of the house holds a fascinating illustration of a historic truism.
One hundred thirty six coat hooks are hidden behind oak boards near the ceiling of the room. Conceivably, this is where the coats of 272 guests could be hung during one of Susan’s famous parties. By contrast, when we have parties in the house today, racks holding an infinite number of coat hangers are wheeled into the coat room. This would have been impossible in Susan’s day because the coat hanger as we know it did not exist when Frank Lloyd Wright designed the house in 1902.
Albert J. Parkhouse is generally credited with inventing the wire coat hanger in 1903. He was an employee of Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson, Michigan, and John B. Timberlake, the owner of the company, applied for and received the patent for the hanger in 1904. Others were inventing new ways to hang clothes at the same time, and one source says that between 1900 and 1906, over 189 different patents were granted on different versions of “garment-hangers” worldwide. Hooks became out-of-date.
The irony is that Frank Lloyd Wright strove to install in the Lawrence House the most modern elements available in 1902 (for example, indoor plumbing, electricity, a duck pin alley). Unfortunately, he missed the coat hanger concept by just a few years. As anyone who has bought a new phone six months before the next model is released can tell you, there’s always something new on the horizon.