Apr 5, 2013

Origin of Umbrellas

As the old song says, "Though April showers may bring the rain. . ." It sent me looking for facts about the lowly umbrella. Jonas Hanway appears to be the first person who had the courage to hold an umbrella over his head while walking along the streets of London during the mid-1700s.

Apparently people in Paris used umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun and save them from the snow and the rain. Someone wrote that Jonas was in delicate health and used the umbrella to protect his face and wig. During that time only dainty beings, then called “Macaronis,” would carry an umbrella.

Bringing it forward a few years gets us to the song, Yankee Doodle. It began as a pre-Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial Yankees.
"Yankee Doodle went to town  riding on a pony;
"He stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni."

The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the mid-1700s and became contemporary slang. The Macaronis adopted feminine mannerisms, and the men were deemed effeminate. In the song, the British were insinuating that the colonists were not very masculine.

Macaroni and cheese has been around since the 15th century, but became widely popular in the late 1700s and does not seem to have any relation to the wig style or derision. In the United States, July 14 is "National Macaroni and Cheese Day.

One current variation on the recipe is the state fair staple, deep fried mac and cheese. Some folks now cover it with bacon. Isn't it amazing how we can get from umbrellas to bacon in a few short paragraphs!