Call them brollies, bumbershoots, parapluies or umbrellas, what did we ever do without them? Umbrellas are both fashionable and functional, keeping us dry in all kinds of inclement weather and shading us from the sun, while giving even the most conservative businesswoman a chance to flaunt her style.
The History of the Umbrella
Umbrellas were first mentioned in recorded history around 3,400 years ago in Mesopotamia (present day Iran and Iraq.) The word stems from the Latin word “umbra,” meaning shadow and the first umbrellas were designed to block the sun (thus creating shadows) rather than the more common modern use of keeping away the rain. Early umbrellas were used exclusively by women.
By the height of the Egyptian civilization in 1,200 B.C.A., the umbrella had taken on a religious significance. It was an honor to stand under an umbrella with an Egyptian nobleman and umbrellas were crafted to honor Egyptian goddesses.
The Romans improved on the early umbrella design by oiling their parasols to make them waterproof. Still, the umbrella remained a woman’s accessory until well into the 18th century, when a (no doubt water-logged) Englishman named Jonas Hanway adopted the umbrella, carrying one everywhere he went. He was so well identified with the umbrella that by the end of his life, Londoners were calling the accessory a Hanway. The trend stuck and by the end of the 18th century, umbrellas were more than women’s fashion accessories; they were necessary rain gear for men, women and children.
Victorian era umbrellas were made with wooden frames or those made of whale bone. Both were expensive and hard to maneuver when they were wet. Samuel Fox revolutionized the construction of the umbrella in 1852 by inventing a steel frame. Pocket umbrellas appeared in the 1930s and Totes, an Ohio company, introduced the collapsible umbrella in 1969.
Today’s umbrellas come in all shapes, colors and sizes. There are still parasols for women to hide from the sun, but the majority of umbrellas are designed to keep the bearer dry in stormy weather. Whatever your style, there’s sure to be an umbrella to complement it and we are sure to have your style at Greatest Stores.