Modern Deck Umbrella
The Chinese character for umbrella is 傘 (sǎn) and is a pictograph resembling the modern umbrella in design. Some investigators have supposed that its invention was first created by tying large leaves to bough-like ribs (the branching out parts of an umbrella). Others assert that the idea was probably derived from the tent, which remains in form unaltered to the present day. However, the tradition existing in China is that it originated in standards and banners waving in the air, hence the use of the umbrella was often linked to high-ranking (though not necessarily royalty) in China. On at least one occasion, twenty-four umbrellas were carried before the Emperor when he went out hunting. The umbrella served in this case as a defense against rain rather than sun. The Chinese design was later brought to Japan via Korea and also introduced to Persia and the Western world via the Silk Road. The Chinese and Japanese traditional parasol, often used near temples, remains similar to the original ancient Chinese design.
Modern Deck Umbrella
Umbrellas continue to be actively developed. In the US, so many umbrella-related patents are being filed that the U.S. Patent Office employs four full-time examiners to assess them. As of 2008, the office registered 3000 active patents on umbrella-related inventions. Nonetheless, Totes, the largest American umbrella producer, has stopped accepting unsolicited proposals. Its director of umbrella development was reported as saying that while umbrellas are so ordinary that everyone thinks about them, “it’s difficult to come up with an umbrella idea that hasn’t already been done.”
Modern Deck Umbrella
According to Gorius, the umbrella came to Rome from the Etruscans who came to Rome for protection, and certainly it appears not infrequently on Etruscan vases and pottery, as also on later gems and rubies. One gem, figured by Pacudius, shows an umbrella with a bent handle, sloping backwards. Strabo describes a sort of screen or umbrella worn by Spanish women, but this is not like a modern umbrella.
Modern Deck Umbrella
In all written records, the oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella dates to the year 21 AD, when Wang Mang (r. 9–23) had one designed for a ceremonial four-wheeled carriage. The 2nd-century commentator Fu Qian added that this collapsible umbrella of Wang Mang’s carriage had bendable joints which enabled them to be extended or retracted. A 1st century collapsible umbrella has since been recovered from the tomb of Wang Guang at Lelang Commandery in the Korean Peninsula, illustrated in a work by Harada and Komai. However, the Chinese collapsible umbrella is perhaps a concept that is yet centuries older than Wang’s tomb. Zhou Dynasty bronze castings of complex bronze socketed hinges with locking slides and bolts—which could have been used for parasols and umbrellas—were found in an archeological site of Luoyang, dated to the 6th century BC.
Modern Deck Umbrella
By 1808 there were seven shops making and selling umbrellas in Paris; one shop, Sagnier on rue des Vielles-Haudriettes, received the first patent given for an invention in France for a new model of umbrella. By 1813 there were 42 shops; by 1848 there were three hundred seventy-seven small shops making umbrellas in Paris, employing 1400 workers. One of the well-known makers was Boutique Bétaille, which was located at rue Royale 20 from 1880-1939. Another was Revel, based in Lyon. By the end of the century, however, cheaper manufacturers in the Auvergne replaced Paris as the centre of umbrella manufacturing, and the town of Aurillac became the umbrella capital of France. The town still produces about half the umbrellas made in France; the umbrella factories there employ about one hundred workers.
Modern Deck Umbrella
The use of the umbrella or parasol (though not unknown) was uncommon in England during the earlier half of the eighteenth century, as is evident from the comment made by General (then Lieut.-Colonel) James Wolfe, when writing from Paris in 1752; he speaks of the use of umbrellas for protection from the sun and rain, and wonders why a similar practice did not occur in England. About the same time, umbrellas came into general use as people found their value, and got over the shyness natural to its introduction. Jonas Hanway, the founder of the Magdalen Hospital, has the credit of being the first man who ventured to dare public reproach and ridicule by carrying one habitually in London. As he died in 1786, and he is said to have carried an umbrella for thirty years, the date of its first use by him may be set down at about 1750. John Macdonald relates that in 1770, he used to be addressed as, “Frenchman, Frenchman! why don’t you call a coach?” whenever he went out with his umbrella. By 1788 however they seem to have been accepted: a London newspaper advertises the sale of ‘improved and pocket Umbrellas, on steel frames, with every other kind of common Umbrella.’ But full acceptance is not complete even today with some considering umbrellas effete.
A large umbrella is displayed in each of the Basilicas of Rome, and a cardinal bishop who receives his title from one of those churches has the privilege of having an umbrella carried over his head in solemn processions. It is possible that the galero (wide-brimmed cardinal’s hat) may be derived from this umbrella. Beatiano, an Italian herald, says that “a vermilion umbrella in a field argent symbolises dominion.”
The first lightweight folding umbrella in Europe was introduced in 1710 by a Paris merchant named Jean Marius, whose shop was located near the barrier of Saint-Honoré. It could be opened and closed in the same way as modern umbrellas, and weighed less than one kilogram. Marius received from the King the exclusive right to produce folding umbrellas for five years. A model was purchased by the Princess Palatine in 1712, and she enthused about it to her aristocratic friends, making it an essential fashion item for Parisiennes. In 1759, a French scientist named Navarre presented a new design to the French Academy of Sciences for an umbrella combined with a cane. Pressing a small button on the side of the cane opened the umbrella.
An umbrella or parasol is a folding canopy supported by wooden or metal ribs, which is usually mounted on a wooden, metal, or plastic pole. It is designed to protect a person against rain or sunlight. The word “umbrella” typically refers to a device used for protection from rain. The word parasol usually refers to an item designed to protect from the sun. Often the difference is the material used for the canopy; some parasols are not waterproof. Umbrella canopies may be made of fabric or flexible plastic.
Simon de la Loubère, who was Envoy Extraordinary from the French King to the King of Siam in 1687 and 1688, wrote an account entitled a “New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam”, which was translated in 1693 into English. According to his account, the use of the umbrella was granted to only some of the subjects by the king. An umbrella with several circles, as if two or three umbrellas were fastened on the same stick, was permitted to the king alone; the nobles carried a single umbrella with painted cloths hanging from it. The Talapoins (who seem to have been a sort of Siamese monks) had umbrellas made of a palm-leaf cut and folded, so that the stem formed a handle.
Thomas Wright, in his Domestic Manners of the English, gives a drawing from the Harleian MS., No. 604, which represents an Anglo-Saxon gentleman walking out attended by his servant, the servant carrying an umbrella with a handle that slopes backwards, so as to bring the umbrella over the head of the person in front. It probably could not be closed, but otherwise it looks like an ordinary umbrella, and the ribs are represented distinctly.
In 1928, Hans Haupt’s pocket umbrellas appeared. In Vienna in 1928, Slawa Horowitz, a student studying sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden Kunste Wien (Academy of Fine Arts), developed a prototype for an improved compact foldable umbrella for which she received a patent on 19 September 1929. The umbrella was called “Flirt” and manufactured by the Austrian company “Brüder Wüster” and their German associates “Kortenbach & Rauh”. In Germany, the small foldable umbrellas were produced by the company “Knirps”, which became a synonym in the German language for small foldable umbrellas in general. In 1969, Bradford E Phillips, the owner of Totes Incorporated of Loveland, Ohio, obtained a patent for his “working folding umbrella”.
The umbrella is used in weather forecasting as an icon for rain. Two variations, a plain umbrella (☂, U+2602) and an umbrella with raindrops overhead (☔, U+2614), are encoded in the Miscellaneous Symbols block of Unicode.
In the 1950s Frei Otto transformed the universally used individual umbrella into an item of lightweight architecture. He developed a new umbrella form, based on the minimum surface principle. The tension loaded membrane of the funnel-shaped umbrella is now stretched under the compression-loaded bars. This construction type made it technically and structurally possible to build very large convertible umbrellas. The first umbrellas of this kind (Federal Garden Exhibition, Kassel, 1955) were fixed, Frei Otto constructed the first convertible large umbrellas for the Federal Garden Exhibition in Cologne 1971. In 1978 he built a group of ten convertible umbrellas for British rock group Pink Floyd’s American tour. The great beauty of these lightweight structures inspired many subsequent projects built all over the world. The largest convertible umbrellas built until now were designed by Mahmoud Bodo Rasch and his team at SL-Rasch to provide shelter from sun and rain for the great mosques in Saudi Arabia.
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