Do you know when the umbrella was invented? Who invented it? Why was it invented? And to whom do we owe the popularization of this object as a fashion accessory? Cherbourg's Maison Le Parapluie reveals all the secrets behind theinvention of the umbrella. From China in the 1st century to Cherbourg today, here are a few selected pieces of history of this object that has conquered the whole world.

When was the umbrella invented?

Theorigins of the umbrella go back to at least the 1st century in China, where the founding emperor of the Xin dynasty is said to have designed an articulated, collapsible device that could be used as both an umbrella and a parasol, mounted on a chariot during a religious ceremony (note that the origin of the parasol, intended solely to protect from the sun, goes back even further than that of the umbrella: traces of them can be found as far back as 4000 BC, in Mesopotamia!) 

But when was the umbrella as we know it invented?

Several mentions of umbrella-type protective devices then appear in medieval writings in Europe, with waxed canvas used instead of umbrella silk: the destinies of the two devices then gradually separate.

Broken umbrella jean marius

Finally, in 1705, a Parisian French merchant named Jean Marius invented the "broken umbrella", which is very similar to the umbrella we know today: foldable into three segments and with metal branches that fold up thanks to a hinge connected to the central pole, it can be taken anywhere in case of a shower during a walk.

The umbrella was born in France in 1705, and while it has undergone a number of developments and remarkable innovations since then, it has to be said that the 1705 version already contained all the elements that still make up the essence of an umbrella today!

How did umbrellas come to be so popular?

Once we've established when the umbrella in its current form was invented, the next step is to understand how the invention was subsequently popularized, until it became a common accessory used all over the world. 

To understand the popularization of this accessory in the form we know it today, it's important to look back at the invention of the umbrella by Jean Marius in 1705. Five years after this invention, in 1710, the Parisian merchant obtained a royal privilege, which gave him a monopoly on the manufacture of this object for a period of five years. From that time onwards, Jean Marius' "parasol-parapluye brisé" became an accessory favored by court nobility, who thus completed their range of chic accessories. When the five-year privilege expired, other craftsmen began to make umbrellas, without really departing from the model invented by Jean Marius.

An umbrella first favored by women, and soon adopted by gentlemen too

While we know from court records when the Marius-style umbrella was invented, it's more difficult to trace the evolution of its popularity. We can, however, establish thatthe umbrella was originally adopted by women, mostly from the nobility, as an accessory to protect them from the rain. But in the 18th century, English gentlemen took their turn, until the men's umbrella once again made its mark... in France, where it even became a fashion accessory during the Revolution.

Umbrella carried by nobleman

From the 19th century to the modern era: time for innovation!

Do you know when the telescopic umbrella was invented? And did you know that in the 19th century, umbrellas were fitted with a wide range of accessories designed to enhance their personalization? From a watch, tobacco pouch and light to padlocks and alarms to prevent theft, umbrellas became an integral part of ordinary city equipment, as much as a fashion accessory revealing something of the wearer's personality.

Finally, the 20th century saw the most recent technical innovations: nylon replaced oilcloth, telescopic handles made their appearance, and ribs became foldable. Since 1986, Le Parapluie de Cherbourg has been proud to continue writing the history of the French-made umbrella, and looks forward to doing so for many years to come!