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Parapluie parasol brisé en soie verte dit Système Marius, après 1710 (vue ouvert côté intérieur). Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.
Parapluie parasol brisé en soie verte dit Système Marius, après 1710 (vue ouvert côté intérieur). Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.

JEAN MARIUS | THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE MODERN UMBRELLA
We’ve all been saved by an umbrella after being caught in the rain.  Meet the master craftsman whose genius just saved you

Today we’re taking you to France in the early 1700’s to meet a master craftsman who was to change to history of the umbrella forever.  It was the reign of Louis XIV, umbrellas existed, but were heavy and awkward and therefore were not in general use. 

Monsieur Jean Marius, a master purse maker from the Paris barrier of Saint-Honoré, noted that on rainy days, the fashionable wigs of many female customers visiting his shop would be ruined.  He realised that umbrellas were the answer, but that in their current form fashionable ladies would not dare to be seen carrying them when not in use.

After many attempts, in 1709 Marius created a pocket parasol.  It weighed less than one kilogram and had folding ribs so it could be folded up and stored in a sheath like a modern umbrella. It also had a jointed shaft, that could be dismantled into three sections, making it small enough to be discreetly carried.

Critically as a purse maker he understood that to gain acceptance his umbrella needed  to be elegant as well as practical, so he introduced beautiful colours to complement a ladies outfit and fancy edging material.

Louis XIV, an avid wearer of elaborate wigs, immediately appreciated the invention and awarded Marius a royal privilege.  This meant that every such umbrella made in France for the next five years had to carry his trademark.

In a letter of 18 June 1712 the Princess Palatine mentioned Marius’s invention, the ‘expeditious parasol-umbrella that can be carried everywhere, in case you are caught in the rain while out walking’.  She enthused about it to her aristocratic friends, and soon every sophisticated Parisian was seen carrying a chic parapluie.

So next time you feel that first spot of rain and reach for your trusty compact umbrella,  spare a thought to the man whose persistence is about to save you from getting wet.

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