Hanger Games — Louis M. Marble

I found this hanger in an antique mall today (I have a growing personal collection of early hangers…) but the label was very worn, and it was difficult to make out what any of the words were. However, I was able to read that it was patented on November 2, 1897. With that I managed to uncover a lot of history. Turns out the hanger was made by the Belmar Manufacturing Company in Canton, Pennsylvania, sometime between 1898 and 1902.

The Belmar Mfg. Co. began in a barn in 1897 shortly after Louis M. Marble patented his coat/trouser, skirt/bodice combination hanger. After a few months to develop the machines to make the hangers with the help of his business partner Matt Tabor, Marble incorporated the Belmar Manufacturing Company (Belmar is an anagram of Marble) and moved operations to a building on Washington Street in Canton. A fire in 1904 destroyed much of the original structure, but it was quickly rebuilt on a larger scale.

Starting with just five workers, many of the earliest employees stayed with the company for years. According to an article in the Nov 30, 1950 edition of the Canton Sentinel: George Dell worked at Belmar for more that fifty years; Elmer Rockwell, 47 years; George Goff, nearly 45 years; Charles Renstrom, more than 40 years and Leon Smith about 38 years. At its peak of operation in the late 1920s, the company employed nearly 350 and was the largest industry in Canton, Pennsylvania (population of about 2,000).

The combination coat and trouser hanger was made alongside other hanger styles. Marble patented more than a half dozen hanger innovations and improvements between 1897 and 1941. Coincidentally, his father, Edgar Marble, had been the Commissioner of Patents from 1880 to 1883, and worked as a patent lawyer until 1908.

Louis Marble had graduated from Cornell university in 1892 with a Bachelor of Science and was also interested in food preservation. During WWI, the Belmar plant maintained a dehydration plant and made potato flour and dehydrated vegetables for soup for the U. S. Government as their contribution to the war effort. 

Louis Marble remained active in the business until his death on November 27, 1944. In June 1945, the business was sold but continued to operate for many more years, although by 1950 the workforce had shrunk to 110 employees.

Belmar pant clip hanger, 1960s

Belmar made nearly 50 different styles of coat, dress and trouser hangers made from cherry, beech, and maple lumber that was kiln dried, cut, shaped and smoothed, and then varnished, waxed or painted. They were the largest wooden hanger manufacturer in the U.S. for decades, producing between 10 and 12 million hangers per year. The exact date of their closing is not known.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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