When was the umbrella invented?
April 25, 2017
The history of the umbrella, in its most basic form, dates back thousands of years; it is one of the oldest known accessories to be used throughout history, it is still used today and most probably will be into the very distant future. The features and designs are simple, effective and have lasted the test of time, which all confirm our love of the humble necessity of the umbrella.
The word umbrella originates from Latin, the word 'umbrage' directly translates to shade or shadow. The word parasol originates from the Latin word 'sol.' which in Italian translates to 'sole' which means, sun. The 'para' in Italian means protecting against which results in the word we recognise today, parasol.
One of the earliest records found of umbrella use was in ancient Egypt, over 4000 years ago. They would have been made from large leaves and wood, there was no need for the umbrellas to provide protection from water and instead, they were used as protection from the sun. We know this from artefacts discovered and ancient art which shows the use of the umbrella by royal and important figures from that time.
By the 11th century BC, China had begun to develop their own version of the umbrella. Again, they were still used as a status symbol by royalty and influential members of society; the umbrella became a distinctive mark of rank. The umbrellas in China were usually made from silk or paper and animal bones, including intricate ivory carvings for the handle. The form of the umbrella became more and more elaborate, with multi layers and multi tiers becoming increasingly popular. It was desirable at the time for women to have skin that hadn’t been affected by the sun; this indicated purity and so many women began constantly using the accessory to prevent any tan.
Artefacts and artwork in ancient Greece and Rome don’t indicate the use of umbrellas or parasols until the 1st millennia BC. At the time, they were still classed as a luxury female accessory, and they were often carried by slaves and servants who walked closely beside the beneficiary, rather than them holding them themselves. A development in the structure of the umbrella occurred during this time, and a mechanism that allowed them to open and close, eased the transportation of the umbrella when it was in storage or not in use.
For numerous years, evidence of the use of umbrellas had reduced. They seemed to have gone out of fashion until the 16th and 17th-century when they began to regain popularity again in England, Italy and France. Umbrellas were still being made from silk, which didn’t offer much protection from the rain but they soon began coating the fabric with oil and wax to make them more water resistant. The handles were made from wood or whalebones which made them very heavy to carry. The open and closing mechanism was now a standard function of the accessory.
It wasn’t until 1712 that the strict female-only branding of the accessory began to shift. A gentleman named Jonas Hanway publicly used the umbrella, even though he regularly received ridicule and abuse for over 30 years for carrying the item. After a considerable amount of time, other men started to use the umbrella too and it soon became the norm for both men and women.
The umbrella evolution continues today, inventions are still frequently being submitted, the most regular is an umbrella that doesn’t turn inside out and a frame that bends, rather than snaps in fast winds.
At Jolly Brolly our umbrellas have advanced with the modern technology and advancements being made in the industry. They’re lightweight, waterproof and high-quality with interesting designs and suitable for both men and women! You can get a huge range to fit all your umbrella needs, personalised umbrellas, umbrellas for kids, golf umbrellas and much more!