Mr. Umbrella Man


The Persian marketplace looked like a giant circus of brightly colored tents. It sounded like one too. Jonas Hanway had come to Persia to buy wool to carry back to England in his ships. But before he could begin trading with the wool merchants, a royal parade stopped everything.

“Make way for the Prince of Persia!” a courtier announced.

As the prince passed, the people bowed low as was their custom. But Jonas did not. He wanted to see everything that was happening. Four strong men were carrying the prince in a velvet-draped sedan chair. They held him on their shoulders high above the heads of the people. Over the prince’s head another servant held a strange shade to keep the sun away.

“What a wonderful idea!” exclaimed Jonas. He soon learned that the prince’s shade was called an umbrella.

How helpful it would be if everyone in Persia had an umbrella of his own, Jonas thought.

Soon Jonas had a number of umbrellas made to shield the sun’s rays from the heads of common persons. But when the prince heard about it, he ordered Jonas to come to the palace.

“You must stop making umbrellas,” commanded the prince. “I forbid it. Only princes and kings may carry an umbrella in Persia. It is a sign of royalty.”

The prince shook his finger angrily at Jonas and shouted even louder, “This is the way it has always been in Persia and this is the way it will stay. Take your umbrellas and go home!”

Jonas returned to his home in England, stored the umbrellas in his attic, and became so busy that he forgot about the prince.

Then one day as Jonas was leaving his home it began to rain. In minutes all the covered chairs and horse-drawn coaches were taken. Jonas was left wet and cold on his doorstep.

In those days riding in a covered chair called a sedan was an easy way to travel. Two or four men carried the chair between them on two long poles. When it rained everyone jumped in a sedan chair to keep dry.

All the people riding in chairs reminded Jonas of the Prince of Persia.

If an umbrella can keep the sun off the prince of Persia, maybe it will keep the rain off me! he thought.

Jonas ran to his attic and found an umbrella. Holding it over his head, he walked down the street.

“Look at that crazy man!” cried the children as he passed. Few Englishmen had ever seen an umbrella before.

Jonas carried his umbrella every time it rained. He gave umbrellas to his friends to carry too.

The chair men became angry. They tried to run over Jonas and some threw rocks at him.

But the people liked Jonas Hanway’s strange new idea. It was not long before many people in England were carrying umbrellas. And as the new idea spread to other parts of the world, the umbrella became known everywhere as man’s best friend—when it rains!

[illustration] Illustrated by Dick Brown