Umbrella



Background

The umbrella as we know it today is primarily a device to keep people dry in rain or snow. Its original purpose was to shade a person from the sun (umbra is Latin for "shade"), a function that is still reflected in the word "parasol," (derived from the French parare, " to shield" and sol, "sun") a smaller-sized umbrella used primarily by women. There is an abundance of references to the usage of parasols and umbrellas in art and literature from ancient Africa, Asia, and Europe. For example, the Egyptian goddess Nut shielded the earth like a giant umbrella—only her toes and fingertips touched the ground—thus protecting humanity from the unsafe elements of the heavens. Although the Egyptians, like the Mesopotamians, used palm fronds and feathers in their umbrellas, they also introduced stretched papyrus as a material for the canopy, thereby creating a device that is recognizably an umbrella by modern standards.

About 2,000 years ago, the sun-umbrella was a common accessory for wealthy Greek and Roman women. It had become so identified as a "woman's object" that men who used it were subjected to ridicule. In the first century A.D., Roman women took to oiling their paper sunshades, intentionally creating umbrellas for use in the rain. There is even a recorded lawsuit dating from the first century over whether women should be allowed to open umbrellas during events held in amphitheaters. Although umbrellas blocked the vision of those behind them, the women won their case.

It was not until 1750 that the Englishman Jonas Hanway set out to popularize the umbrella. Enduring laughter and scorn, Hanway carried an umbrella wherever he went; not only was the umbrella unusual, it was a threat to the coachmen of England, who derived a good portion of their income from gentlemen who took cabs in order to keep dry on rainy days. (In the late 1700s and early 1800s, another name for an umbrella was a "Hanway.") Braving similar ridicule in 1778, John MacDonald, a well-known English gentlemen, carried an umbrella wherever he went.

Due to the efforts of Hanway, MacDonald, and other enterprising individuals, the umbrella became a common accessory. In nineteenth-century England, specially designed handles that concealed flasks for liquors, daggers and knives, small pads and pencils, or other items were in high demand by wealthy gentlemen. The umbrella became so popular that by the mid-twentieth century, if not earlier, etiquette demanded that the uniform of the English gentleman include hat, gloves, and umbrella.

Among the qualities one might look for in an umbrella is the comfort of the handle, the ease with which the umbrella is opened and closed, and the closeness with which the canopy segments are connected to the ribs.

Raw Materials

Materials used to manufacture umbrellas have, of course, improved through the years. One of the most important innovations came in the early 1850s, when Samuel Fox conceived the idea of using "U" shaped steel rods for the ribs and stretchers to make a lighter, stronger frame. Previously, English umbrellas had been made from either cane or whalebone; whalebone umbrellas especially

Modern umbrellas are made by a hand-assembly process that, except for a few critical areas, can be done by semi-skilled workers. First, the shaft—whether wood, metal, or fiberglass—is made, and then the ribs and stretchers are assembled. Next, the nylon canopy is hand-sewn in sections (a typical umbrella has 8 sections).
Modern umbrellas are made by a hand-assembly process that, except for a few critical areas, can be done by semi-skilled workers. First, the shaft—whether wood, metal, or fiberglass—is made, and then the ribs and stretchers are assembled. Next, the nylon canopy is hand-sewn in sections (a typical umbrella has 8 sections).
were bulky and awkward. Rounded ribs and stretchers are frequently seen today only on parasols and patio umbrellas. Advancements in metal-producing technology have made rounded metal ribs and stretchers more feasible, however, and some manufacturers produce umbrellas with these components. Modern rain umbrellas are made with fabrics (nylon, most commonly) that can withstand a drenching rain, dry quickly, fold easily, and are available in a variety of colors and designs.

The Manufacturing
Process

Modern umbrellas are made by a hand-assembly process that, except for a few critical areas, can be done by semi-skilled workers. Choices of materials and quality control occur throughout the manufacturing process. Although a well-made umbrella need not be expensive, almost every purchasing decision impacts directly upon the quality of the final product.

Collapsible rain umbrellas that telescope into a length of about a foot are the most recent innovations in umbrellas. Though mechanically more complicated than stick umbrellas, they share the same basic technology. Among the differences between a stick umbrella and a collapsible umbrella is that the collapsible uses a two piece shaft that telescopes into itself, and an extra set of runners along the top of the umbrella. This section will focus on the manufacture of a stick umbrella.

The shaft

Ribs and stretchers

Canopy

Where To Learn More

Books

Crawford, T. S. A History Of The Umbrella. Taplinger Publishing, 1970.

Stacey, Brenda. The Ups and Downs of Umbrellas. Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991.

Periodicals

"How to Choose a Good Umbrella," Consumer Reports. September, 1991, pp. 619-23.

"Nylon Ribs Toughen Umbrella Frame," Design News. June 16, 1986, p. 49.

Jones, Arthur. "Personal Affairs—Sticks of Distinction," Forbes. February 24, 1986, pp. 116-18.

Sedgwick, John. "Let It Pour: Getting a Handle on the Best Umbrella," Gentlemen's Quarterly. March, 1992, p. 51.

Shenker, Israel. "Yoicks! Yoicks! And Brolly Ho! Rah for the Parapluie!" Smithsonian. November, 1989, p. 130.

Lawrence H. Berlow



Also read article about Umbrella from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

1
John Clarke
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Mar 4, 2006 @ 9:21 pm
Hi,
The reason umbrella canopies are not cut from one piece of cloth is not because of the material has to be shaped to fit the ribs; it's because the panels have to follow the thread pattern of the weave, otherwise the material will pull on the bias and create puckers.
John
2
Jeff
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Aug 20, 2006 @ 5:17 pm
How are vented-top umbrellas made differently from standard and how could this vent be incorporated into a sun shade type, but still be a water protectant as well?

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