New York City is under water these last two days and we all strongly hang on to our umbrellas. These rainy days make me wander about the origins of the essential tool, and I was pretty sure that the origins of the canopy was French. So I made some researchs and I discovered that I was almost right. Even if the use of umbrella was adopted in France probably from China in the middle of the 17th century, the first folding umbrella was indeed created in Paris in 1705!
The inventor was a Paris merchant named Jean Marius. His shop was located near the barrier of Saint-Honoré. The ”parapluie” (pluie means rain in French) could be opened and closed in the same way as our modern umbrellas. Marius received from the King the exclusive right to produce folding umbrellas for five years. The diffusion of this object in the high society of the 18th century progressed rapidly, to the point that it became an accessory of fashion during the French Revolution, making it an essential fashion item for Parisiennes.
Can you believe that it is in 1759 that a French scientist named Navarre presented a new design to the French Academy of Sciences :an umbrella combined with a cane – including a small button on the side of it which opened the umbrella, yes in 1759!!!
In 1769, Maison Antoine, a store on rue Saint-Denis, was the first to offer umbrellas for rent to those caught in downpours, and it became a common practice. By 1813 there were 42 shops; by 1848 there were 377 small shops making umbrellas in Paris, employing 1400 workers. Nowadays Aurillac replaced Paris as the center of umbrella manufacturing. The parapluie capital of France still produces about half of the umbrellas made in France.
The umbrellas of Cherbourg
We could not talk about French umbrellas without mentioning the famous French movie “Les parapluies de Cherbourg” featuring Catherine Deneuve playing Genevieve, a beautiful young woman working in a small town umbrellas boutique and falling in love with Nini Castelnuovo. Enjoy the trailer of this essential!