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The Public Shaming of England’s First Umbrella User

If you've seen enough old movies, you might think that the British invented the umbrella, but that is far from what happened. The idea of an umbrella began with the parasol, which the French nobility used to block the sun’s harsh rays. It was a simple matter to upgrade the invention to a waterproof version, and it became popular -in France. Then Jonas Hanway bought one and brought it home with him to England. The first time he used it in rainy London, he caused quite a scene.

People were outraged. Some bystanders hooted and jeered at Hanway as he passed; others simply stared in shock. Who was this strange man who seemed not to care that he was committing a social sin?

Hanway was the first man to parade an umbrella unashamed in 18th-century England, a time and place in which umbrellas were strictly taboo. In the minds of many Brits, umbrella usage was symptomatic of a weakness of character, particularly among men. Few people ever dared to be seen with such a detestable, effeminate contraption. To carry an umbrella when it rained was to incur public ridicule.

Bystanders would eventually get used to Hanway and his umbrella, but carriage drivers felt threatened by the utensil that might hurt their business. Read how the umbrella came to England at Atlas Obscura. via the Presurfer


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