The umbrella has been a societal staple for centuries, protecting heads from torrential downpours and even blocking out blazing sun rays. Shockingly, it is theorized that umbrellas trace back to ancient times, but there’s far more to learn about this common purse accessory!
The first umbrella dates back to the Aztec region of Mesoamerica, later featured in ancient Egyptian art. The word “umbrella” also has Latin roots, stemming from “umbros,” which means “to provide shade.” Umbrellas were also once practical for self-defense purposes too, especially in women.
In this article, we will discuss the umbrella’s fascinating history and reveal seven intriguing facts about them!
What Is an Umbrella?
The umbrella is a collapsible plastic or fabric canopy, often stretched across a metal or wooden skeleton and supported by wood, metal, or plastic pole. Since the canopy of the umbrella is waterproof, it offers unrivaled protection from the harshest elements, including rain, direct sunlight, and wind.
The History of Umbrellas
The origin of the early umbrella dates back to the Aztec region of Mesoamerica. In fact, early forms of the umbrella — constructed with feathers and a long central pole — are depicted in ancient Egyptian art.
By 2310 BC, the umbrella reached the Ancient Near East and later spread across the globe. It was not until 1923 that the modern collapsible umbrella was born, constructed by the Balogh brothers in Hungary!
Today, the umbrella is one of the most common household items. Many individuals keep an umbrella with them at all times in preparation for any sudden change in weather. Many people also believe in superstitions about umbrellas. For example, it is a common expression that rain will probably not come if you remember to carry your umbrella; however, it may rain on the day that you do in fact remember to bring it with you. Read more about the umbrella’s 4000-year history in this article.
The Umbrella Has Been Used as a Weapon
In some situations, the umbrella has proven to be effective as a self-defense mechanism. This unusual trend started after a 1902 newspaper article suggested that women carry umbrellas to protect themselves from attacks. However, the umbrella has doubled as an attack weapon by criminals, too!
Umbrellas Have Been in Countless Blockbuster Films
Speaking of weapons, the umbrella has been around just in time to save some of the most infamous movie stars throughout film history. For example, a bullet-firing umbrella was featured in the 1992 film Batman Returns.
The Umbrella Is Often Used in Rituals
In Buddhism, an umbrella-like object is often laid over statues of Buddha as a sign of respect. In Catholicism, the umbrella earned a spot on the church’s coat of arms. In fact, past popes have been spotted publicly using a church-issued umbrella, although this tradition seems to have died out. That umbraculum would traditionally stand as a symbol of honor.
Umbrellas Are Often Featured in Art
The most well-known societies to depict the umbrella in artistic renditions include the Egyptian, Japanese, French, American, and Indian societies. Artists such as Monet and Renoir have also illustrated umbrellas in their paintings at some point during their careers!
There Are Many Types of Umbrellas
The most common types of umbrellas are the parasol and the traditional umbrella. Unlike the classic umbrella, the parasol cannot repel water, dirt, and snow. Other past variations include the oil-paper umbrella and the less practical umbrella hat. Check out this umbrella hat on Amazon.
The Umbrella’s Name Has Latin Roots
The name umbrella comes from the Latin word “umbros,” Latin for “shadow” or “to provide shade.” Not surprisingly, this Latin translation accurately describes what umbrellas do! Read more about how the umbrella got its name in this article.
Modern Umbrellas Originated in Greece and Rome
The widely used modern umbrella most closely resembles the umbrellas common in ancient Greece and Rome. It was not until the early 20th century that the umbrella’s design featured moving pieces. Today, modern umbrellas feature a convenient, foldable design that fits into a purse or glove compartment.
Umbrellas have had starring roles in film, religion, and everyday life for centuries now. Today, the collapsible umbrella is a trusty tool for shelter from rain, snow, sunlight, and wind. And since modern culture appreciates umbrellas over protective apparel alone, it is unlikely to fade from the public eye!