Umbrella History

What most people view as the modern day umbrella is a far cry from its stately origins. In ancient times, it was a symbol of wealth, royalty and power. Though often associated with wet weather, its original purpose was to provide protection from the sun. The purpose, style, and materials have evolved over the years, but the signature canopy shape has generally remained the same. 

There are references to the usage of parasols and umbrellas in art and literature that span across the globe, from Africa to Asia, as early as the 4th century B.C. The Egyptians used palm leaves and feathers to construct early versions of the umbrella. In the 11th century, the Chinese introduced leather as a material to provide water protection. In Greece and Roman, they were used almost exclusively by wealthy females and most males looked at umbrellas as feminine products that were below them, so they endured the sun and rain with no protection.

Egyptian Umbrella

Umbrella History

After the fall of the Roman Empire, umbrellas and parasols went out of fashion for sometime and only after the start of the Renaissance did they reemerge as a common accessory not just for nobility, but the general population. However, it wasn't until an English gentleman by the name of Jonas Hanway fashioned and carried a rain umbrella on the streets of London in 1750, when men began to take notice. In fact, for some time a "Hanway" became another name for an umbrella. This was unsettling for coachmen in England because they derived a good portion of their income from men who took cabs in order to keep dry on rainy days. 

Umbrella Artisan

Over time, the materials used to construct umbrellas have evolved, but the basic design remains the same. What was once constructed of whalebones, wood, and steel, has been replaced with strong, lightweight fiberglass. Leaves, silk and feathers have been replaced with treated nylon fabric. In the nineteenth-century, umbrella handles were outfitted with flasks for liquor, daggers, knives, pads and pencils. Today, you can find umbrellas outfitted with everything from TV projectors, to color changing fabrics and air generated rain shields. 

At Viola Umbrella, we see umbrellas and parasols, as elegant, traditional and timeless accessories that enhance gentleman and ladies' attires. We seek to preserve their rich and storied heritage by offering our customers high quality umbrellas, with exceptional design and craftsmanship.