Four Weird Victorian Inventions That Made Shade

Unfortunately, these four weird Victorian inventions that made shade never saw the light of day. Unless parasols stage a comeback we hope at least one of these will go into production soon. Bring on the Coat Boat, because floppy hats and sunscreen are not cutting it.

These four weird Victorian inventions that made shade (or at least aspired to do so) are a tiny sampling of tens of thousands of gadgets designed and patented by amateur inventors during the Victorian Era’s Great Age of Inventions.

The Great Victorian Age Of Invention

The Victorian Era was a time of profound change, thanks to the advances of the Industrial Revolution (1760 to 1820-40). With advances in transportation and communication, a cross-flow of ideas spurred The Second Industrial Revolution (roughly 1870-1914). With that came the Great Age of Inventions.

Many of these new inventions paved the way for modern life. Little things like light bulbs, telephones and automobiles made a lasting mark. But there were many other remarkable ideas that made smaller marks, or at least dreamed to do so.

In England, the new laws of 1843 allowed ideas to be copyrighted quickly and cheaply. In the United States, The first Patent Act of Congress was passed on April 10, 1790. It was titled “An Act to promote the progress of useful Arts.” With relatively easy mechanisms in place to protect vulnerable ideas, the craze to invent the next big thing hit full swing.

#1 Victorian Invention That Made Shade: Sunshade Hat 

S.B. Bartine of Tottenville, New York filed his patent for the Sunshade Hat in May of 1883. It was a simple “hat or cap having an umbrella-like shade and to allow free circulation of air about the had of the wearer, and easily collapsed, so at to present the general appearance of an ordinary hat or cap.”

The umbrella was a light, small, portable, usually circular cover for protection from rain or sun, consisting of a fabric held on a collapsible frame of thin ribs radiating from the top of a carrying stick or handle.

#2 Victorian Invention That Made Shade: The Portable Sun Shade

The women in the National Aid Association designed the portable sunshade in 1885. Their dream was to make life more comfortable for the British soldiers involved in the bitter Sudan Campaign.

Caroline Rochford, author and family historian from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, uncovered the illustration. It shows a man with a kind of sunshade made from paper and bamboo. He is wearing the virtually weightless device as a backpack, leaving his hands free to carry a notepad and pen.

Okay, it’s not exactly GQ material, but definitely worth consideration for the pragmatic among us.

#3 Victorian Invention That Made Shade: The Coat Boat

Meet the coat that doubles as a boat. Granted, its primary purpose was not to make shade, but check out the umbrella that doubles as a sail.

According to Hannah Furness,  this ingenious contraption was invented by Peter Halkett, a Royal Navy officer, during the golden age of British exploration.

It was made from Mackintosh rubber that could be worn as, yes, a coat. The coat-boat had four separate compartments in case of puncture and took four minutes to inflate. Once inflated, it could support the weight of up to eight people. The wearer would carry a walking stick, which would double as a paddle and a large umbrella to serve as a sail

This one actually made it into production. It was designed to be light enough to carry over the Arctic’s difficult terrain, but robust enough to cope in extreme weather. The Coat Boat was used by a number of explorers in the 1800s as they battled to become the first to conquer the Northwest Passage.

#4 Victorian Invention That Made Shade: Multi-purpose Cane

“The multi-purpose cane, catering for all the gentlemanly pastimes!”

Here’s another invention we hope will go into production immediately. We believe that ladies can enjoy all of the listed activities along with the gentlemen! Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland could certainly have used one of these gizmos when racing around the world in eighty days.

This lovely walking stick doubles as: a butterfly net, a flute, a pipe (although we are not certain what the gentleman in the advertisement is smoking), and horse measurer. If you happen to get caught in a rainstorm (or find that the sun becomes too much while you are pursuing so many gentlemanly pastimes), your walking stick becomes an umbrella, a.k.a. parasol.

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