Friday, April 12, 2013

Rainwear History

Rainwear History

“Bus stop, wet day, she’s there, I say
Please share my umbrella
Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows
Under my umbrella”
The Hollies
Songwriters: Gouldman and Graham

Last April I wrote about the history of raincoats, and so, today I share the history of their partner, the umbrella.  The word “umbrella” comes from the Italian word  “ombrello” from the Latin “umbra” meaning shade.  As early as 2,000 B.C.E. the father of the modern umbrella, the parasol, was carried to protect from the heat and sun in the North of Africa, Mid and Far East.  As a protection from rain it wasn’t until the end of the 17thC that people carried umbrellas, although they weren’t made of waterproof fabric until the beginning of the 18th C.  The first folding model was designed by a Frenchman, Jean Marius.  In the 1800’s the fabric covering was of leather or oiled canvas and the ribs that served as the support structure were made of whalebone.  When steel replaced the whalebone and nylon coated with acrylic and scotch guard replaced the canvas the accessories became lighter and much more practical.

Today there are many versions of this protection from the elements: Large, stripped golf umbrellas, Gentleman’s umbrellas with a curved handles, which, when furled act as walking sticks, Hugh patio and beach umbrellas still guard against the sun.  Then there are the extra small, traveling versions that fit into a tote or briefcase.  I must admit that I own several umbrellas, but I never seem to have one when needed.

19th C parasol cover
The next innovation for this product should be prevention from turning inside out with a gust of wind, bending the frame and ribs.   It then becomes too mangled to even dispose of and a new umbrella must be purchased.

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