The word ‘umbrella’ has evolved from Latin ; the derivation is either ‘umbella’ which is a similarly shaped flower or ‘umbra’ meaning shaded. Either way, most ancient cultures claim to have invented the umbrella (or ‘parasol’ derived from the latin ‘para’ meaning shade and ‘sol’ meaning sun) and references are plentiful in many cultures around the world. The first references from Ancient Greece date back to the 5th Century BC, Ancient Rome believed the umbrella was invested by the Etruscans and there is evidence of a collapsible umbrella in China around 2400 BC. Umbrellas were widely used throught India and Persian history also, however there is little evidence of European usage until the 17th Century AD and later still in the New World.
Widespread use of the industrially produced umbrella followed the English Industrial Revolution and Victorians such as Samuel Fox and William Hoyland established umbrella frame factories in and around the steel manufacturing hub of Sheffield for distribution to umbrella makers throughout the UK and the Commonwealth. Many innovative designs followed some of which are still used in today’s mass produced designs. Production moved from the UK to Japan, then Taiwan and China which is now the principal source of production globally with over 1000 established umbrella factories and annual output of over 500 million umbrellas.
Umbrellas have been decorated for centuries for the purpose of fashion and also religious ceremonies. But the advent of the promotional umbrella as we know them today probably began in France around the 1960s when a beer brand had the idea of printing their logo on sun umbrellas to encourage tourists on holidays to sample their products. The idea spread quickly as marketers recognised the effectiveness of this new promotional product. Londoners recognised that rain is more common than sun in the metropolis so golf umbrellas began to appear in the City branded with discreet logos. The trend developed and, by the 1980s financial boom, the promotional golf umbrella was firmly established as a top seller in the fast growing promotional merchandise market. Despite the emergence of many new and innovative products to the market, the custom printed umbrella in its many forms trend remains a much valued business gift and highly effective promotional product.