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The One To Break A Tradition

Where does the origin of the word umbrella lie? The Historians believe that umbrellas were used in China, India, Greece and Egypt in ancient times. However, the Europeans did not use umbrellas at that period of time. According to the Historians, there was something, like an umbrella, which was made of bamboo and leaves, in England. Interestingly, only English women used those umbrellas! As the use of umbrellas was not so popular even in England, men did not use them…

Jonas Hanway (August 12, 1712 – September 5, 1786) was the first Englishman to break that tradition. The usage of umbrellas had become popular in France before England. However, the people of England used to consider the French culture of using umbrellas as inferior! Hanway, after his return from a trip to France, started carrying an umbrella around the rainy streets of London in the early 1750’s. His action shocked his countrymen. For them, the usage of umbrellas was symptomatic to weakness of character, particularly among men. Hanway, the pioneer of weather management, was reportedly pelted with insults and trash!

Jonas Hanway, Esquire, in 1781

Stubborn Hanway paid little attention to the social stigma, thus, making umbrella-usage popular across England. According to a historian, Hanway’s taboo-busting use of umbrella inspired many of the large towns of the British Empire to carry umbrellas with them. “Almost every English town, in other words, had its own Hanway,” he said.

There was a rise in the usage of umbrellas in England after Hanway’s demise in 1786. On rainy days, more and more Englishmen were found roaming in the streets with umbrellas above their heads. And, Hanway became a symbol of the changing social norms in conservative England.

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