Friday, June 27, 2014

The Amazing Legacy of James E. Hanger, Civil War Soldier

The newly published book, "The Amazing Legacy of James E. Hanger, Civil War Soldier" written by Bob O'Connor tells the story of the war's first amputee, a member of the Churchville Confederate cavalry.

Hanger, a former engineering student, lost his leg to amputation in the first land battle of the war at Philippi, VA (now West Virginia). Hanger was very dissatisfied with the Yankee issued peg leg. It was "better than nothing" but not functional. So he built a limb for himself that had a hinge at both the knee and the ankle. By the end of 1861, he was operating an artificial limb plant making Hanger limbs.

At first he provided limbs for dismembered veterans from the Confederacy.

A meeting with Abraham Lincoln provided Mr. Hanger with the opportunity after the war ended to become a preferred vender for veterans who fought on both sides.

Over the years he obtained many patents for improvements on his original Hanger limb.

His business expanded during the industrial revolution later in the century to provide for those injured in accidents in American factories and along the country's vast railroads.

By the time of his death in 1919, Hanger had worn an artificial leg for 58 years. His company operated plants in Richmond, St. Louis, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Pittsburg in the United States and in London and France.

Over 60,000 persons were wearing Hanger limbs including many of his company's employees.

Today the company that bears his name (Hanger Inc.) is a member of the New York Stock Exchange. It has 740 clinics in the United States and is the country's largest provider of prosthetics and orthotics. The company cares for over 1 million patients annually.

Even today people who wear Hanger limbs have no idea that their artificial limb goes back to James E. Hanger, and the American Civil War.

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