Notable Hanger patients include:
A remark in Ambrose Bierce's postwar memoir that "We shot off a Confederate leg at Philippi" refers to Hanger. At 18 years of age, Hanger joined the Confederate cavalry at Philippi, Virginia, on June 2, 1861. One day later, during the Battle of Philippi, Hanger was sheltering inside a stable with the rest of the Churchville (Virginia) Cavalry when the "first solid Union cannon shot of the war" bounced into the stable and struck his leg. The injury required amputation of Hanger's leg above the knee, and he underwent the first battlefield amputation of the war, at the hands of Union surgeons. Hanger returned to his parent's home to recuperate wearing a prosthesis that was basically a wooden peg. His dissatisfaction with the fit and function of the limb replacement led Hanger to design and construct a new prosthesis from whittled barrel staves, rubber and wood, with hinges at the knee and foot. The device worked well, and the state legislature commissioned him to manufacture the “Hanger Limb” for other wounded soldiers.
Manufacturing operations for J.E. Hanger, Inc., were established in the cities of Staunton and Richmond. Hanger was awarded his first patent for an artificial limb, number 155, from the United States Patent Office on March 23, 1863. Over the years Hanger developed and patented additional products for veterans and other amputees. In 1906, Hanger moved the company’s headquarters to Washington, DC. In 1915, he traveled to Europe to help World War I amputees and to learn from European prosthetists.
Hanger’s five sons were active in operating the family business. In 1915, they divided J.E. Hanger, Inc., into four separate companies, with each operating in a different region of the country. At the time of Hanger’s death in 1919, the companies had branches in Atlanta, St, Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, London and Paris.