The story of J. E. Hanger is a remarkable one with important ties to West Virginia, and it’s a story you’ve probably never even heard of before. Born in Churchville, Virginia, in 1843, Hanger’s life took an unexpected turn on June 3, 1861 when he became the first amputee of the Civil War. Hanger was just 18 years old and had been a soldier for less than a week when he was injured during the Battle of Philippi in what is now West Virginia. At a field hospital in a church in downtown Philippi, his leg was amputated just below the hip. This life-altering tragedy on a West Virginia battlefield propelled him on a path that would lead to the invention of the prosthetic, revolutionizing the lives of countless amputees worldwide.
In recognition of his remarkable contributions (learn more about Hanger, Inc. at its website), including the invention of the prosthetic, J. E. Hanger was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. His story (which is memorialized on a plaque outside of the Barbour County Courthouse on Main Street in Philippi, West Virginia) testifies to the strength of the human spirit and the power of ingenuity to change lives for the better… and it all started right here in Philippi, West Virginia.
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