This hanger is significant because it was used by a local retailer, May's of Michigan. This item is significant for its historical association with a downtown Grand Rapids specialty retailer. The history of some of Grand Rapids' long-time retailers still resonates today because of the active role these businesses and their owners played in contributing to the development of the city, its economy, arts, and culture.
A. May and Sons A. May & Son’s, also known as May’s of Michigan, was a men’s wear store based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The store was founded as the Giant Clothing Store by German merchant Abraham May in 1883 at Monroe and Lyon Streets, Grand Rapids and was nicknamed “the Giant”. After two years at the University of Michigan, Abraham's son Meyer May and other children in the family joined their father's business and the name of the store was changed to A. May & Son’s. It was the first store in the nation to display clothing on Batts hangers, an important first in the merchandizing of clothing. Meyer May became president of the company after his father's death in 1906. Meyer May and his wife Sophie Amberg were also known for their private residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Today the house is operating as a museum by Steelcase Inc. A. May & Son’s remained in the family until 1967, when it was purchased by Botany Industries. Norman Talmo, a former Botany executive purchased the store in 1972. The downtown store closed in 1986 and the building was demolished for parking in 1988.
Source: Michael Hauser and Marianne Weldon. Images of America, 20th Century Retailing in Downtown Grand Rapids. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, 2014.
John Thomas Batts Company The John Thomas Batts Company was a company based out of Zeeland, Michigan and is credited with the creation of the "Wishbone Hanger". This hanger revolutionized the sale of suits and other garments, which were previously arranged for sale by stacks on tables. Besides being visually unappealing, using stacks of coats, vests, and pants was an inefficient use of space and resulted in creases in the clothing from folding them. A. May and Sons became one of, if not the first, retailer in the world to display clothes for sale on such a hanger.