Monday, August 18, 2008

Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella...or Parasol!

As summer comes to a close, the colorful beach umbrellas that dot the shore will be packed up for another year. Interestingly, the umbrella began its life as a sunscreen over four thousand years ago.
Ancient Greek and Roman women used parasols as fashion accessories, and history indicates that only effeminate men would carry them. And we think “macho” is a recent trait? Ha!

The Chinese were the first to develop a collapsible umbrella around 23 BC, and they also 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. They just always seem to be able to create the unique!

The Europeans depended on cloaks for protection from the elements…hard not to picture Tess of the d'Urbervilles in a long cape on the heath, but in the mid 1600s the parasols from China made their way to England and France.

The early European umbrellas were made of wood or whalebone and covered with 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.

At first it was considered only an accessory suitable for women. Then the Persian traveler and writer, Jonas Hanway (1712-86), carried and used an umbrella publicly in England for thirty years, and he popularized umbrella use among men. English gentleman often referred to their umbrellas as a "Hanway."

This excerpt from the website of world famous James Smith and Sons Umbrella Shop is steeped in history. It “was founded in 1830 and is still owned and run as a family business. For 175 years the company has been making umbrellas, sticks and canes for both ladies and gentlemen and their reputation as the home of the London umbrella is well justified.
The historic and beautiful shop is on New Oxford Street in the heart of London’s West End and is a stunning reminder of the Victorian period. The shop retains the original fittings designed and made by the master craftsman employed by the business and is a work of art in itself.”

In the 1800s, Philadelphia was home to the most extensive umbrella and parasol manufacturing companies in the United States. These red parasols have Philadelphia labels inside. The workmanship on the button closure is so nice compared to the velcro of today!

Also fascinating about these umbrellas are the handles. From silverplate to bakelite to bamboo, they all have personalities.

This umbrella has a silverplate handle with a jeweled tip that is echoed on the tips of the umbrella also.
It has a label inside indicating it was made for Macy's in Italy...the inside is spectacular..
When you think of what we carry now…minis with no finesse…yet, designers are starting to incorporate parasols into their lines. Even the stars are showing up with them like Rhianna with her "umbrella...ella...ella" pop hit!
Of course, there is the oldie but goodie from crooner Perry Como...

Just let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day . . .
And if your sweetie cries, just tell her,
That a smile will always pay . . .

Whenever skies are gray,
Don’t you worry or fret,
A smile will bring the sunshine,
And you’ll never get wet!

So, let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day .


Anonymous said...

Susan ~

Loved the lesson and the pictures. I love the polka dot umbrella with the button closure.


Shabby in Pink Boutique said...

How interesting! I love those umbrella's! So pretty! Thanks for sharing... Have a wonderful day!

Patricia said...

I just love that one with the silver handle. I like that the inside was so gorgeous, just for the one carrying it. That would be a must see shop if I ever get to England.


Inka Smith said...

Susan, We still have a few months of summer down here but the umbrellas will leave as do the tourist, the end of the month. Enjoyed your lesson today. I love umbrellas. You can poke people with them. Reminds me of the little ole ladies who would hit people with them. LOL

gail said...

Hi Susan,,, I am glad you have been having an awesome summer! Enjoy the first day of school too. I love the information on the umbrella. I love that red and white polkadot one, soooo cute. Have a great week,,,(())gail

Carolee Crafts said...

Loved the umbrella story, I will have to go to the 'umbrella shop' next time I am in London. somewhere I have never been. Due to go to VV rouleaux's off Sloane Square so can combine the trips.

Cathy said...

Susan, what a lovely post. I wish I was at the Beach today. It is quite hot outside and I am sweating while I type even with the a.c. on. lol

Have a great day.

Noelle Garrett Designs said...

Great post. I wish we got to use more umbrellas out here. They are just so pretty!

Sweet Necessi-Teas said...

Susan, You have outdone yourself again! I loved the lesson on umbrellas and parasols. Thanks for sharing. (PS It's been raining all day so I got to use my umbrella while running errands...)

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

Susan that was another great post. Those umbrella's are beautiful.

Also enjoy the fact that you are a caretaker to so many kitties. Makes my heart happy.


Silena said...

Another great, informative and oh, so colorful!! I'll always remember you and this post each time I use one! Hmmm, mine are pretty plain and pretty black....I think I should invest in one as colorful as the ones you so charmingly shared!

Miniature Patisserie Chef said...

Hi Susan,

Oh wow, thank you for sharing with us the history of umbrellas. The history is just fascinating.

Pei Li

SoCal Helene said...

Hi Susan,
Yet another very interesting show n tell. I have to agree that it’s all in the little details that makes a piece so special. Thanks for visiting my S & T, great to hear that you liked the pics from back home. Have a wonderful week!

Deb said...

Hi Susan....what pretty umbrellas and as always your posts are so informative....thanks!

Pink hugs,

Susie said...

Hi Susan! Great history on the umbrellas. I loved when parasols were the rage. Now I cannot be in the sun too long and always wished I had one. Great show and tell.
Susie of The Polka Dot Rose

Unknown said...

I too loved the lesson on umbrellas. Sadly we haven't needed one much this year as we are again in a drought. I remember as a child going to Cypress Gardens in Florida. Seeing the ladies in their turn of the century lace gowns and parosals is a memory I will always have. They would gracefully stroll and pose with your for photos. Thanks for bringing back that memory.