From time to time, I like to look back in time and honor the great, unsung heroes of history. People like Le Petomane and Nicholas Cugnot or the man we are focusing on today, Jonas Hanway.
This brave soul was the first man to walk around carrying an umbrella at a time when only women used them.
Like all people who break down barriers, Hanway at first met with a lot of resistance. Especially from the Hackney coachmen (the taxi drivers of their day) who feared that if this idea caught on it might hurt their business. Here now are a few excerpts from a journal that Hanway kept during those tumultuous days…
March 3, 1750, 9:00 am:
I think the modifications that I’ve made to turn a parasol into a rainproof device are complete. My “umbrella” as I call it is ready for testing on the streets of London. Never again will powdered wigs, make up and silk stockings be ruined by inclement weather…and I guess women may find it useful as well.
March 3, 1750, 9:03 am:
Apparently, the modifications were not complete. I seem to have underestimated the bloody wind! I’d not taken three steps from my home when a sudden gust ripped from my hand. I had to chase it for six blocks and wrest it away from a couple of filthy street urchins, one of whom tried to bite me. It’s a good thing that teeth are scarce among the lower class or I might have been injured.
Clearly, I need to improve the handle, but I’m not discouraged because I believe that this idea is one for which the people of this nation will be forever thankful.
March 5, 1750, 4:02 pm:
Bloody ungrateful bastards! Mindless fools! Everywhere I went I was greeted by derision and laughter. From one end of London to the other it was “Lovely parasol, my lady!” or “Afraid you might melt in the rain? Made of sugar are we?”
The most egregious affront to my dignity was delivered by a boorish group of Hackney coachmen. Tomorrow, I plan to seek them out and teach them a proper lesson!
March 8, 1750, 11:00 am:
Finally back from the hospital. The resident proctologist said he had seen a few parasol injuries before, but never one lodged quite so far up in the human body. He also said that if it had opened I would have been a goner for sure.
This act of violence against my person shall not deter me. I will not stop until I have secured the right of every man in England to carry an umbrella without the risk of be insulted or injured…I will prevail!
And so he did. Eventually, his efforts to make it acceptable for men to carry umbrellas were a success. His follow up campaign to bring back the over sized codpiece…not so much.
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