Who Created the Umbrella?

Imagine this: you’re strolling through the park on a beautiful autumn day. Leaves are gracefully falling to the ground. Birds are happily chirping. A cool breeze is gently blowing. But suddenly, everything becomes silent. Where did the birds go? Then you hear it. The first rumble of thunder. Before long, the clouds release a heavy downpour.

Thankfully, you brought an umbrella! You push the button, and you find yourself under its protective canopy. You make your way home, staying much drier thanks to your umbrella.

Who can you credit for this amazing invention? Who came up with the tool that keeps you (almost) dry during a storm? It may disappoint you to learn that the original inventor of the umbrella is unknown. However, we do know that umbrellas were used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India.

Initially, umbrellas were not used to shield people from rain. Instead, they were used to block the sun. Typically, it was the wealthy and powerful individuals who had the privilege of sitting in the shade of an umbrella. Eventually, umbrellas made their way to ancient Greece and Rome.

It wasn’t until the first century CE that people began using umbrellas to protect themselves from rain. Roman women would apply oil on their umbrellas, causing water to roll off. Soon after, more and more people started using umbrellas for both rain and sun.

Many years later, European women started using parasols for shade. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that most European men began carrying umbrellas in case of rain. This practice was popularized by two Englishmen named Jonas Hanway and John MacDonald. Today, it’s rare to see someone walking in the rainy UK without an umbrella.

Like most technological advancements, umbrellas have evolved over time. Modern umbrellas can perform various tasks. How about an umbrella that can predict rain? Or one that plays your favorite music? Would you like to browse YouTube on the underside of your umbrella? Thanks to umbrella technology, all of these things are now possible.

Are you interested in having an umbrella that helps you fly? Unfortunately, that’s not an option yet. However, you can witness this dream in action in the movie “Mary Poppins.” In fact, umbrellas make appearances in numerous books and films.

The umbrella is a prominent prop in “Singing in the Rain.” And where would the villainous Penguin be without his umbrella in “Batman Returns”? Fans of Harry Potter know how important Hagrid’s umbrella is. And who could forget the special spy umbrella in “Kingsman”?

Speaking of spy umbrellas, there’s some truth behind that last example! Invented in the 19th century, the umbrella gun was utilized by both spies and assassins. In fact, an umbrella gun was used in the assassination of writer Georgi Markov in 1978. They were also favored by officers of the Soviet Union’s KGB. An umbrella isn’t always what it appears to be!

Most umbrellas used today are not weapons. Instead, they serve as your best defense against walking through a rainstorm and staying dry. Rain jackets are nice. Rain boots help too. But nothing keeps you dry like an umbrella!

Give It a Try

Enlist the help of a friend or family member and try out these activities:

Designing the High-Tech Umbrella of the Future

What features would you like your umbrella to possess? Are you interested in exploring Wonderopolis while strolling through a rainstorm? Perhaps you envision the ability to fly through the air for a quicker journey home. Imagine that you have been given the task of creating the next cutting-edge umbrella. Sketch a picture of your design and provide a brief description of the innovative functions it can perform.

Consider the frequency of rainfall in your area. Consult a world rainfall map to locate your region and discover the monthly precipitation levels. Does the map align with your personal experience? Additionally, explore the rainfall statistics for a destination you aspire to visit.

Have you ever heard the superstition that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck? Delve into this belief and form your own opinion. Would you classify it as a harbinger of misfortune? Explain your reasoning to a friend or family member.

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports-and-everyday-life/fashion-and-clothing/clothing-jewelry-and-personal-adornment/umbrella#1G22896500104 (accessed 20 Aug. 2019)
  • https://www.britannica.com/technology/umbrella (accessed 20 Aug. 2019)
  • http://blog.dvd.netflix.com/new-dvd-releases/9-movie-scenes-starring-umbrellas (accessed 20 Aug. 2019)
  • https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-true-history-of-the-umbrella-gun-a-surprisingly-serious-weapon (accessed 20 Aug. 2019)
  • https://www.pcmag.com/feature/204399/top-10-high-tech-umbrellas-for-rainy-days/10 (accessed 20 Aug. 2019)

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