Also known as a bumbershoot, brolly, parapluie, and parasol, the umbrella shields us against rain, snow, sunlight, and wind. You might not think there’s much that’s exciting about the umbrella, but you’d be wrong! Check out these interesting facts and trivia about the ultimate weather accessory.
The Origin of the Umbrella
Its origins can be traced back more than 3,000 years to China, Egypt, and other ancient civilizations. The umbrella was first developed as protection from the Sun and was a symbol of status, held by servants over royalty and others of high rank. Feathers, leaves, paper, and silk were all used as coverings, some of which were oiled or varnished to make them waterproof. The ribs were originally made from cane, and later, whalebone, but in the 1800s, steel began to be used for the ribs and oilcloth for the covering, which made the umbrella much stronger.
Today, the umbrella’s basic design remains much the same, but the coverings are mostly made of synthetic fibers in vivid colors.
Some Interesting Umbrella Facts and Trivia
According to UmbrellaHistory.net:
- The word umbrella comes from the Latin word “umbra” which means shade or shadow.
- Modern-day acceptance of umbrellas started to spread across Europe in the middle of the 18th century. Up until that point, umbrellas were viewed as a female fashion accessory.
- The first man who publicly carried umbrella was Englishman Jonas Hanway. His influence finally introduced the umbrella to the male population of England, and soon after the entire world.
- Modern-day umbrellas are coated with Teflon, which makes their canopy waterproof.
- Many religions adopted umbrellas and parasols as a part of their ceremonies and processions.
- One of the most famous hats that serves as a big parasol is the Mexican sombrero (which can be translated as “shade maker”).
- During the 19th century, European fashion demanded that umbrellas be held in the middle of their shaft, with the handle pointing toward the ground.
- English nobility preferred umbrellas made from blue or green silk.
- The first working “folding umbrella” was introduced in 1969 by Bradford Philips.
- Over 33 million umbrellas are sold in the United States each year.
As for the future of the umbrella, Japanese researchers have invented a high-tech umbrella—”to make rainy days fun”—that projects images on the inside. Users get to scroll the images by twisting the handle. What do you think? Good idea, or bad? Tell us in the comments below.
Jean Grigsby is a writer, who lives on the banks of the Kennebec River in Chelsea, Maine. She enjoys working out, reading, and running her marketing and public relations business, The Write Approach. Her article, Where Are All The Birds? appears in the 2021 Farmers' Almanac.