The History of the Umbrella

Umbrellas are one of the most popular promotional products in the UK, thanks to their large branding area and the amount of times they are needed by consumers, thanks to the regular downpours synonymous with British weather.

But, where did the word umbrella come from? Did they originate to protect against the rain and when did they start to fit inside a handbag?

Since we produce a wide range of printed promotional umbrellas, we decided that these questions needed answering, so have compiled a brief overview covering the history of the umbrella!

Where did the word Umbrella Come From?

Umbrella is a word that has its roots in Latin, as many modern words do today. The word ‘umbrella’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Umbra’ that means shadow. The Umbrella in western culture became popular for those who live in wetter climates, however often were only used by women as an accessory, and as protection from the sun.

Many English gentlemen also used the word ‘Hanway’ in reference to Persian traveller Joan Hanway, who carried an umbrella and used it frequently when he visited England in the 1700s.

Umbrellas Before Time Began 

It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the Umbrella as the concept has been around since ancient times, this is why when searching for the true origin of the Umbrella we must look in several places.

Umbrellas in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is known for inventing many great things during their time, and over 4000 years ago their technology was more advanced than in England in the middle ages.

Parasols were first created 4000 years ago to shield royals and nobles from the sun’s rays. You may picture a parasol in the shape of a tree leaf being held over an Egyptian ruler to protect them from the sun. Parasols were also made of tree branches and animal skins back in this age, and these materials were extremely expensive, hence the exclusivity of the parasol to the upper classes.

Umbrellas in China

In the 11th Century, the rich people of China began to use their own version of an umbrella to protect them from the sun and the rain. Once established here, these parasols were made waterproof although this idea was not exported to Europe.

Umbrellas Closer to home

The first notable presence of the parasol in Europe was in Italy and Greece, as trade routes with Egypt thrived. The non-waterproof parasol became a part of life for a short while before the fall of the Roman Empire, and then ceased to exist in Europe for 1000 years.

In the 16th century the Umbrella once again emerged in Europe as a way to protect from the rain. Europe had a much wetter climate than other parts of the world so this quickly became a popular shield from harsh rainfall.

Up until the 1790s it was generally only women who used the Umbrella. However when a Persian explorer called Jonas Hanway publicly used one during his visit to the UK, and although openly ridiculed at first, men began to use the Umbrella too. Although unpopular with men at first, it soon went into large scale production as the male population grew more fond of it.

James Smith & Sons

James Smith and Sons opened its doors in 1830 and became the first all-umbrella store. It is still located on 53 New Oxford Street in London. These umbrellas were carved with wood and whalebone, and the handles were carved to create an aesthetically pleasing accessory.

English Steels Umbrella Company

In 1852 the steel ribbed umbrella was invented by a man called Samuel Fox. The English Steels Company became successful and they say that the creation of this type of Umbrella originated as a way to use up farthingale stays (steel used in a woman’s corset).

Umbrellas in Modern Times

In 1928 the pocket umbrella was invented by Hans Haupt. She was a sculpture student in Vienna and looked to improve upon the foldable umbrellas already in production by compacting them to be smaller. The Umbrella was named ‘Flirt’, and in Germany the company ‘Knirps’ began to produce them. Knirps is the common word used in Germany for this type of Umbrella to this day.

In 1969, Bradford E Phillips created a "working folding umbrella" which can be seen today in folding umbrellas.

Nowadays, umbrellas have a huge global market and most of the umbrellas worldwide are made in China. Millions of umbrellas are sold every year, with the UK selling a total of 1.5 million each year.

And with the development of the High Wind Umbrellas, these umbrellas are made from reinforced materials that can withstand more extreme qualities of rain and wind speeds.

Umbrella Printing in the UK

At Really Good Branding we specialist in the production of high quality promotional umbrellas which can be printed in one colour on a fabric of your choice, several colours or full colour, with imagery reaching accross the whole canvas.

If you are looking to showcase your brand to existing and potential customers, or offer a gift that will enjoy plenty of use, then contact our team to discover how we can help find the right branded Christmas Cracker printed umbrella for your budget and campaign.

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