Today, February 10th, is National Umbrella Day. It is unclear when this holiday originated but appropriately, my weather app shows rain every day this week except Friday. It is believed that the Chinese were the first people to use umbrellas. There is evidence of the existence of umbrellas back as far as four thousand years ago. Ancient art and artifacts from China, Egypt, Greece and Assyria all have representations of umbrellas.
The umbrella was probably invented not so much to protect us from the rain but to give us shade from the sun. In China, ancient umbrellas were made out of paper with layers of wax, and then lacquer applied. Women used umbrellas long before men did. They were used as a fashion statement. The word “umbrella” comes from the Latin “umbra,’ which means shade.
Perhaps the first umbrella shop opened in London, England in 1830. In 1928 the “pocket umbrella” was invented and in 1969 a Bradford Phillips obtained a patent for the first folding umbrella. Umbrellas come in all shapes and sizes but they are not just utilitarian. Umbrellas have been used to create a powerful effect in a number of movies. James Bond was frequently seen with an umbrella, almost always rolled up and sometimes with the ability to fire like a gun. On a sinister note, in the movie Batman Returns, the Penguin character, played by Danny DeVito, always carried an umbrella and his hideout appears decorated with umbrellas, most of which double as weapons. The Beatles movie, Yellow Submarine, features men in silhouette carrying umbrellas and wearing trench coats.
My two favorite umbrella related scenes from movies are both happy ones. Mary Poppins holds an umbrella as she glides through the air. That’s an example of the umbrella as an object of magic. Perhaps the most iconic use of an umbrella in the cinema is from the 1952 movie, Singing in the Rain. In one of the most recognized scenes in cinematic history Gene Kelly swings from a lamppost as he dances in the rain with his umbrella.
I think I’ll go home tonight and watch old movies. But it looks like it might rain. Now where did I leave my umbrella?
Lynn Jinks is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.