I Have One, But I Hardly Ever Use It.

Waking In The Rain
Umbrella | Photo by daysoftheyear.com

Before I moved to Oregon in 1992 I used one fairly often. I guess I was raised in an atmosphere that said it was a necessary part of life. After a very short period of time I came to realize that I had been carrying it around with me, but not actually using it. I had it strapped to my airport-style carry bag on wheels for my laptop computer. It must have been at least a couple of years when I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I had really become a transplanted Oregonian because I didn’t need one.

The subject of this column is, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the umbrella. Just take a look around on a rainy day, now that we are are in our rainy season, and you’ll see what I mean. Hardly anyone uses an umbrella. Most people dress in water resistant clothing and go on about their business. The joggers are a breed unto themselves wearing running shorts and a shirt or sweats even in the winter. My biggest problem with umbrellas is that they only keep half of you dry. My pant’s legs and shoes got wet and when getting into my car another issue arose. I’d open the door, sit down in the driver’s seat, shake out the umbrella, and close it. The only way to get it into the car was to lift it over me to place it on the floor of the passenger side. No matter how fast I swung the umbrella in I always had water drops land in my lap getting me wet, so what good did the umbrella really do for me? Not much, so I stopped using one.

Assyrian umbrella
Assyrian Umbrella (Parasol) | thevalentine.org

Now we get to the burning question in my mind: When, where, and by whom was the umbrella invented? According to The Inventors.org “The basic umbrella was invented over 4,000 years ago. We have seen evidence of umbrellas in the ancient art and artifacts of Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and China. These ancient umbrellas or parasols, were first designed to provide shade from the sun. The Chinese were the first to waterproof their umbrellas for use as rain protection. They waxed and lacquered their paper parasols in order to use them for rain.”

Jonas Hanway
(Original Caption) The First Umbrella–Mr. Jonas Hanway Walking Out In A Shower | Image by Bettmann/Getty Images atlasobscura

They go on to explain that Jonas Hanway, a Persian traveler and writer, carried and used an umbrella in England for thirty years in the late 1800s. Quoting Inventors.org again “The first umbrella shop was called ‘James Smith and Sons’. The shop opened in 1830, and is still located at 53 New Oxford St., in London, England.” For those of you who didn’t experience 4-years of Latin in a Catholic High School as I did, the word umbrella comes from the latin root “umbra” which means shadow or shade.

S. Fox & Co.
S. Fox & Co. Limited – Ad From July 1890 | Image by graces guide.co.uk

According to TheNakedScientists.com “The early European umbrellas were made of wood or whalebone and covered alpaca or oiled canvas. The artisans made the curved handles for the umbrellas out of hard woods like ebony, and were well paid for their efforts. In 1852, Samuel Fox invented the steel ribbed umbrella design. Fox also founded the ‘The English Steels Company’, and claimed to have invented the steel ribbed umbrella as a way of using up stocks of Farthingale stays, steel stays used in women’s corsets. African-American, inventor, William C. Carter patented an umbrella stand on August the 8th, 1885.”

Pocket Umbrella
Hans Haupt’s Pocket Umbrella | Image by global.rakutex.com

Another site UmbrellaHistory.net “Most notable inventions that shaped umbrella into modern state were Hans Haupt’s introduction of pocket umbrellas in 1928, and 1969 Bradford E. Phillips’ introduction of modern folding mechanism.

Liturgical Umbrella
Liturgical Umbrella | Photo by pbs.twimg.com

Umbrellas even found their way into religious ceremonies such as Catholic Church (as a part of the papal regalia) and oriental Orthodox churches where umbrellas are used to honor important person or holy object.”

Today you have a large selection of umbrellas from which to choose including college and professional sports logo umbrellas, high-end designer umbrellas, to the simple black umbrella and the easy-to-carry compact umbrella. For me I’ll stick to my coat and hat to keep me dry.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].


Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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