Brief history of umbrellas from parasol to Hanway and today [video]

February 10th is National Umbrella Day. It is not known how this came to be but umbrella-history-wise, its use dates back to ancient times. From the sun-protecting parasol to the ridiculed Hanway, modern brollies are being developed to provide better sun-rain protection and wind resistance.

A little monk boy walking away as he holds a red umbrella matching his robe

February 10th is National Umbrella Day. It is not known how this came to be, but whether it’s sunny or rainy on that day, open your umbrellas to use or shake the dust off.


Wow. California is being rained a lot since 2018. Thank goodness, Mother Earth is doing her balancing act – reducing the drought condition that plagued us here. Hopefully, you’re getting (or will get) your fair share of that nature’s magic.✨

So this morning, February 9th, I woke up with yet another drizzle and I’m just glad it’s a Saturday… By the time I’m finishing this write-up though, the sun is coming out beautifully. It’s perfect for a party we’re going to attend this afternoon. Rain or shine 🌦, however, we’re going to bring our brollies . . . well, not just to celebrate a birthday, but also pre-umbrella day!  Haha.

But first, some facts and a little history for ya…

The ancient parasol

The umbrella has been used around 4 B.C., not for the rain, but for the sun. It was originally called parasol – that is, para (protecting against) + sol (sun). ☀️

Mostly women of the ancient worlds – Rome, Greece, Egypt, India and the Middle East – had used sunshades 😎 made of feathers, leaves and even leather. But some royalties, clergies and dignitaries had also been depicted on ancient drawings using parasols. It was as if carrying one was an honor. (1)

From umbra to Hanway

Umbrella came from the Latin word, umbra, which means shade or shadow.  As mentioned, it was primarily used as sun protection but later on, as some history shows, the Chinese 👲🏻 made their yúsăn or săn useful during the rain by reinforcing it with wax and lacquer.

What started as a woman’s accessory was passed on to men when a Persian traveler and writer named Jonas Hanway publicly carried this once-for-a-lady-only contraption in England. He popularized it for men use. Thus, English gentleman often referred to their umbrellas ☂️ as “Hanway”. (2)

Umbrella today

What Makes the Perfect Umbrella? by GeoBeats News, on YouTube

There are many attempts to improve this age-old hand-held device for many reasons. Standard umbrellas can poke someone in the eye, provide inadequate protection only and be wet-messy when folded. 🌂

Umbrella inventors created modern-looking parasols that are even more functional. There are rain-shields ☔️ with extended water-splash-resistant canopy on one side, rain-shaders sans the poking, aero-dynamic versions that resist wind 💨 up to 70 miles per hour and inside-out umbrellas that also will literally prevent the wind from tipping umbrellas inside out…

Still, the development of a better umbrella continues…

A little monk boy walking away as he carries a red umbrella that matches his red robe
A little monk boy walking away as he carries a red umbrella that matches his red robe

(1) What is the history of the rain umbrella? (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2018 from
(2) Bellis, Mary. 2018, June 13, 2018. Who Invented the Umbrella? Retrieved from


Author: AboutMnimi

I'm a writer-photographer who wants to share all about memories. =)

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