Today is National Umbrella Day (who knew, right?). It even has its own FACEBOOK PAGE. And in honor of this little-known holiday, I thought I do a little research on the device and share it with you.
The umbrella itself has been around for about four thousand years. Evidence of its existance has been found in drawings found in Egypt, Greece, China and Assyria. But these early umbrellas were created not to protect bearers from the rain but from the sun. In fact, the word umbrella comes from the Latin ‘umbra’ meaning shade or shadow. The word parasol – which is the type of umbrella that appears in my stories – comes from the Latin word ‘papare’ (to prepare) and ‘sol’ (sun).
It was the Chinese who eventually waterproofed the umbrellas to protect the holder from rain. They did this by waxing and lacquering the paper used to craft them.
It was early in the sixteenth century before umbrellas became widely accepted in Europe. And even then it was considered a ‘woman’s accessory’. Then along came Jonas Hanway, writer, philanthropist and founder of the Magdalen Hospital. Born in 1712, he spent his young adult years travelling widely in Russia and Persia. When he returned to London for good, around 1750, he carried an umbrella with him regularly. Though he was often mocked for its use, before long it became a trend to have an umbrella handy. In fact, for a while, umbrellas were known as Hanways.
1786 – The first patent for the umbrella with the circular coned canopy shape was registered by John Beale
Between 1808 and 1851 over 103 patents were issued for improvements and inventions related to umbrellas
Parasols became a popular feminine accessory in the early nineteenth century among aristocratic English women. Some of the more enterprising of these women had the handles fitted to carry perfume, writing materials or even a dagger.
1830 – The first dedicated umbrella shop, James Smith & Sons, opens its doors in London. It is still open today, in the exact same location.
1852 – Samuel Fox invents the steel ribbed design. Before this time whalebone was used predominantly. He claimed to have implemented the use of steel as a way to use up excess stocks of steel stays intended for women’s corsets.
1928 – Hans Hupt’s pocket umbrella arrives
1930s – the ladies parasol finally fell from popular fashion
In the U.S., the annual market for umbrellas hovers at around $350 million
The word Bumbershoot, a synonym for umbrella, is an Americanism that came into use in the 1890s (I always thought this originated in England)
During the Napoleonic Wars, some British soldiers took umbrellas with them into battle. Some Americans also took umbrellas with them into battle during the Indian Wars.
The study of umbrellas actually has its own name – brolliology
More replacement umbrella purchases are made due to lost than broken umbrellas. In London alone nearly 75,000 umbrellas are forgotten on buses and subways each year.
The superstition about it being bad luck to open an umbrella indoors came from an ancient African belief. The umbrellas at that time and placed were used a sunscreens. They believed it was an insult to the sun god to open an umbrella in the shade and that doing so would bring his wrath down upon them.
So what do you think? Did any of these facts surprise you?