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The Umbrella Mystery

Many are familiar with the image of an Anglo-Saxon gentleman, who walks in the rain while protected by an umbrella held by his servant over his head. Numerous representations, like the famous drawing of Thomas Wright “Domestic Manners of the English,” portray the image of England’s early seventieth century gentlemen. The famous Sherlock Holmes, who made his first public appearance in 1887, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective character, was depicted in various media as wearing a deerstalker hat and cloak, smoking a pipe and clutching a magnifying glass. His comrade and friend Dr. John H. Watson who following and helped him during his investigating endeavors, was depicted in film holding a long and probably heavy umbrella which Holmes sometimes also used by leaning on while thinking over the facts of a case.

Originated from China, the use of the parasol, or later referred to as the umbrella, was adopted by French and English aristocracy before becoming popular to the masses during the next two centuries. But apart from it being adopted by nobles and peasants alike, the umbrella had to overcome the problem of being considered a particularly feminine gadget. According to an early eighteenth century dictionary, the umbrella was considered to be a screen commonly used by women to keep off rain or sun. But it took some years before the English noble society was seen holding this bizarre by highly effective device. While in the mid eighteenth century France was already a proponent of its extremely positive results, England had yet to be convinced of the umbrella’s suitability and general use. It took England by surprise when the founder of the Magdalen Hospital, Jonas Hanway, became the pioneer who begun carrying an umbrella in public display around 1750 and continued doing so for over thirty years, up until his death.

Since those days, the umbrella improved its design and the various transformations in its form and material costs, led it to become a necessity; especially when it rains. Found in corner shops and at street sellers, the umbrella’s modern light design and compact collapsible size, due to a telescoping steel trunk, increased its production and usage numbers. New materials, like cotton, plastic film and nylon replaced the original heavy oiled silk and made it a fun and trendy gadget for people to carry around, as it easily fits in a woman’s purse or under a man’s arm.

About the Author: John Gibb is the owner of umbrella sources
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