Tag Archives: parasol

Umbrella 101

18th_CenturyThe origins of umbrella are going back to China 11th century BC.  They were used for protection from the sun and were inspired by the canopy of a tree, which would offer a cool shade from the heat of the day.    They were called “parasols” from “sol”, which means sun.

Only during the period 1685-1705 idea of a waterproof umbrella was established.  Known at first as an umbrellow, from the French word ombrelle, which in itself was derived from ombrellino, the inclemency of the English weather ensured the umbrella’s success. This new use was popularized by the coffee houses where umbrellas were kept to shelter customers from the rain when walking to their carriages.

Unknown-1Philanthropist Jonas Hanway pioneered the use of an umbrella in Britain, and was the first man to commonly use an umbrella. He is often mistakenly recognized for its invention and introduction to London. It was during this period that the distinction between a parasol that gave protection from the sun and an umbrella from the rain came into being.  John Beale registered the first a patent in 1786 with the idea of a circular coned canopy supported by ribs attached to a central shaft. With the popularization of umbrellas in the 19th Century, inventions and patents on umbrellas started to increase in number to over 40 per year from 1860 to the turn of the century. The global market for umbrellas was spurred on by the industrial revolution; with Great Britain leading the way in an export drive to her new colonies around the world including America. The idea of a parasol being a fashion accessory of costume of the 17th and 18th Century with intricate lace or brocade designs, ebony or bone shafts and handles made of precious metals with jewels, became a fashion item of the 19th Century. In 1843 Henry Holland, introduced steel ribs partly due to the increase in the cost of whalebone, but it was the invention by Samuel Fox in 1852 of the “U” shaped Paragon steel rib, which is still used today, that revolutionized the umbrella.