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The earliest reference to umbrellas can be traced back 3,000 years to Egypt, where they represented a concept of heaven and were restricted to use by royalty. The umbrella retained its religious and mythological symbolism for thousands of years in numerous cultures and is still used for ceremonial purposes in many countries.

In the early 18th century, umbrellas were available in Britain, however, their heavy whalebone ribs, leaky covers and great weight meant that they were not readily accepted for everyday use. This changed around 1750 when umbrellas with hinged ribs and more convenient weight were introduced from the continent.

Ownership of the first umbrella in Scotland is attributed to a Dr Spens of Edinburgh. In 1872, a Dr John Jamieson imported a yellow umbrella from Paris. It seems that this was so unusual that it 'attracted universal attention' and he would be followed around on wet days by crowds of people who were amazed by the strange spectacle of his unfurled umbrella.

In 1786, an enterprising individual, John Gardiner, started to manufacture umbrellas in Glasgow, perhaps inspired by the one introduced into the city by Dr Jamieson. It seems, however, that it was constructed from waxed linen, with cane ribs and a massive handle. It was cumbersome and a load to carry, and was soon overtaken by a lighter version made in Manchester.

Joseph Wright, a Glasgow lay preacher, philanthropist and writer, was also the manufacturer of the 'Drooko' umbrella in Glasgow between 1885 and 1912. Wright published many of his own works and was able to include long advertisements for the 'Drooko' in his books. So renowned were his umbrellas that a verse was dedicated to them:

'I walk the world a raintight fellow
Beneath the Joseph Wright umbrella.'

A Meeting of Umbrellas, by James Gilray, 1782

Typical Gentleman's Umbrella of the 1840s.

Early Umbrellas.

Early Umbrella.

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