The basic umbrella was invented over
four thousand years ago. We have seen evidence of umbrellas in the ancient
art and artifacts of Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and China.
These ancient umbrellas or parasols,
were first designed to provide shade from the sun. The Chinese were the
first to waterproof their umbrellas for use as rain protection. They waxed
and lacquered their paper parasols in order to use them for rain.
The word "umbrella" comes from the
Latin root word "umbra", meaning shade or shadow. Starting in the 16th
century umbrella became popular to the western world, especially in the
rainy weather of northern Europe. At first it was considered only an accessory
suitable for women. Then the Persian traveler and writer, Jonas Hanway
(1712-86), carried and used an umbrella publicly in England for thirty
years, and he popularized umbrella use among men. English gentleman often
referred to their umbrellas as a "Hanway."
The first all umbrella shop was called
Smith and Sons". The shop opened in 1830, and is still located at
53 New Oxford St., in London, England.
The early European umbrellas were
made of wood or whalebone and covered with alpaca or oiled canvas. The
artisans made the curved handles for the umbrellas out of hard woods like
ebony, and were well paid for their efforts.
1852, Samuel Fox invented the steel ribbed umbrella design. Fox also founded
the "English Steels Company", and claimed to have invented the steel
ribbed umbrella as a way of using up stocks of farthingale stays, steel
stays used in women's corsets. African-American, inventor, William C. Carter
patented an umbrella stand (U.S. patent#323,397 - see image left) on August
the 8th, 1885.
After that, compact collapsible umbrellas
were the next major technical innovation in umbrella manufacture, over
a century later.
Jonas Hanway's Journal of Eight
Days' Journey (1757)
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