Saturday, March 23, 2024



By Mary Davis


In preparation for April showers—whether you get rain showers, snow showers, or you’re showered with sunshine—I thought I would take a look at those devices that keep the weather off of us.


I love umbrellas because they remind me of rain, and I LOVE rain. Rain is so refreshing and cleans the air. Rain creates friction in the air, which produces negative ions. We breathe in these invisible, odorless, tasteless, mood-lifting molecules, and when the negative ions reach the bloodstream, it’s believed they increase serotonin, which can help lessen depression, reduce stress, and boost energy. Yay! I LOVE rain.


However, umbrellas (a.k.a. Parasols, bumbershoots, and an assortment of other names) weren’t initially created for the rain. Their original purpose was as a sun shade in dry climates like desert areas. The root word “Umbra” means shade or shadow in Latin. Parasol is formed from two French words, “para” meaning “to protect from” and “sol” meaning “sun”.


There is evidence of umbrellas in ancient civilization such as Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, and others, dating back more than 4,000 years. The earliest known reference to this shading device is from the Mesopotamian Civilization in West Asia. These umbrellas were fashioned from palm leaves or papyrus. In the early days, they were used mainly by the wealthy.


The Chinese were the first to wax or lacquer their paper parasols so they could stave off the rain.


There was a period of about a thousand years where umbrellas seemed to disappear before reemerging.


Parasols arrived in France from Italy by way of Catherine de Medici when she married King Henry II. Since the ladies in the court naturally wanted to copy the queen, parasols became an instant new fashion.


Lightweight folding umbrellas were popularized by Jean Marius, a Parisian merchant, in 1710. Before this, they were cumbersome and seemed like they might have been a rigid, static device.


Umbrellas and parasols were viewed as a lady’s accessory, while men toughed out the harsh weather with their hats and overcoats. Then along came Jonas Hanway, a Parisian traveler and writer. He was the first man to boldly wield his umbrella publicly for thirty years in England, making way for the rest of the men to do likewise. These umbrellas that men used were referred to as a “Hanway.”


James Smith and Sons opened their door at 53 New Oxford Street in London England in 1830. It was the first store to sell exclusively umbrellas and is still at that location.


Samuel Fox, founder of the English Steels Company, created an umbrella with steel ribs instead of the usual cane or whale bone in 1852. He claimed he was using up corset farthing stays. He patented his design and allowed James Smith & Sons to sell it in their shop.


Since at least 1902—probably farther back—ladies have been using their parasols (or umbrellas) for defense if attacked. The Daily Mirror article in 1902 instructed women how to do this. The weighty steel construction made it a good choice to protect oneself from more than just the weather in a pinch.


However, the value of using an umbrella for defense goes back farther. In Baron Charles Random de Berenger’s 1835 book How to protect Life and Property, there are a number of techniques for using an umbrella as an impromptu weapon. J. F Sullivan wrote an article for the Lugate Monthly in 1897 that described the umbrella as a “misunderstood weapon.” And between 1899 and 1902, Bartitsu (an English eclectic martial arts and self-defense method) taught the use of both umbrellas and canes to protect oneself.


A huge innovation came to the umbrella in 1928. Hans Haupt created a telescopic pocket umbrella, receiving a patent for it in September of 1929. This compact umbrella was produced by an Austrian company. In Germany, it was manufactured by the Knirps company, and became known as Knirps there.


Many innovations have been made since, and today umbrellas come in many varieties, from the typical kinds to those you can put on your head or ones that are “stormproof.”



Historical Romance Series

By Mary Davis

THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT (Book1) – Will a secret clouding a single mother’s past cost Lily her loved ones?

THE DAUGHTER’S PREDICAMENT (Book2) *SELAH & WRMA Finalist* – As Isabelle’s romance prospects turn in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams.

THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Book3) *SELAH Winner* – Nicole heads down the mountain to fetch herself a husband. Can she learn to be enough of a lady to snag the handsome rancher?

THE DÉBUTANTE’S SECRET (Book4) – Complications arise when a fancy French lady steps off the train and into Deputy Montana’s arms.


MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE LADY’S MISSION. Her other novels include THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle Book 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (The Quilting Circle Book 3) is a SELAH Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; THE WIDOW'S PLIGHT, THE DAUGHTER'S PREDICAMENT, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection, Prodigal Daughters Amish series, "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-seven years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:
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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your interesting post this morning. The only thing I don't like about umbrellas is having to fold them to get them into a car, thus you get wet anyways from the fabric!!! But I suppose not as soaked as not using one...