The word umbrella comes from the Latin word umbra, meaning shade or shadow (the Latin word. An umbrella or parasol (also called a brolly, rainshade, sunshade, gamp or bumbershoot) is a canopy designed to protect against rain or sunlight. Often the difference is the material; some parasols are not waterproof. Parasols are often meant to be fixed to one point and often used with patio tables or other outdoor furniture. Umbrellas are almost exclusively hand-held portable devices; however, parasols can also be hand-held. Umbrellas can be held as fashion accessories.
The origins of the umbrella are most probably China in 11th century B.C. although ancient sculptures have been found in Nineveh, Persepolis and Thebes (Egypt) depicting the use of umbrellas. There is also evidence of Umbrellas or Parasols being used at the same period in India. The first umbrellas were most probably a converted branch of a tree (for example giant Banana Leaves) or a hat on a stick, which gave rise to the umbrella, as we know it today. 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. Starting in the 16th century the 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, he popularized umbrella use among men. English gentleman often referred to their umbrellas as a “Hanway.”
The first all umbrella shop was called “James Smith and Sons”. The shop opened in 1830, and is still located at New Oxford Street 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.
In 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. After that, compact collapsible umbrellas were the next major technical innovation in umbrella manufacture, over a century later. In 1823, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh patented a method for making waterproof garments by using rubber dissolved in coal-tar naphtha for cementing two pieces of cloth together. The now famous macintosh raincoat was named after Charles Macintosh. Macintosh raincoats were first made using the methods developed by Charles Macintosh. When vulcanized rubber was invented in 1839, Macintosh’s fabrics improved since the new rubber could withstand temperature changes.
Materials used to manufacture umbrellas have, of course, improved through the years. One of the most important innovations came in the early 1850s, when Samuel Fox conceived the idea of using “U” shaped steel rods for the ribs and stretchers to make a lighter, stronger frame. Previously, English umbrellas had been made from either cane or whalebone; whalebone umbrellas especially were bulky and awkward. Rounded ribs and stretchers are frequently seen today only on parasols and patio umbrellas. Advancements in metal-producing technology have made rounded metal ribs and stretchers more feasible, however, and some manufacturers produce umbrellas with these components. Modern rain umbrellas are made with fabrics (nylon, most commonly) that can withstand a drenching rain, dry quickly, fold easily, and are available in a variety of colors and designs. Among the qualities one might look for in an umbrella is the comfort of the handle, the ease with which the umbrella is opened and closed, and the closeness with which the canopy segments are connected to the ribs.
Modern umbrellas are made by a hand-assembly process that, except for a few critical areas, can be done by semi-skilled workers. Choices of materials and quality control occur throughout the manufacturing process. Although a well-made umbrella need not be expensive, almost every purchasing decision impacts directly upon the quality of the final product. Collapsible rain umbrellas that telescope into a length of about a foot are the most recent innovations in umbrellas. Though mechanically more complicated than stick umbrellas, they share the same basic technology. Among the differences between a stick umbrella and a collapsible umbrella is that the collapsible uses a two piece shaft that telescopes into itself, and an extra set of runners along the top of the umbrella. This section will focus on the
1709 – Artisans often fashioned elaborate curved handles out of hardwoods like ebony. The need for more practical umbrellas became greater and by the 1950′s the telescopic folding umbrella heralded the way. Although Marius, a Parisian trader , invented the first folding umbrellas in 1709, his inventions never caught on because of their clumsy design and it was the launch in USA in the 1930′s of the “Growy Umbrella” with the idea of folding ribs that ensured the success of the telescopic folding umbrella. The folding umbrella was invented in 1709, during the reign of the Sun King. At the time they were very expensive status symbols. Recorded in History on May 4, 1715 in Paris, the French manufacturer debuts 1st folding umbrella. (U.S. patent#323,397) William C. CarterIn 1852, Samuel Fox invented the steel ribbed umbrella design. 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.