ASTM F3512-21: Wind Safety & Durability Of Market Umbrellas

Two colorful beach umbrellas set on a  sandy, sunny beach that adhere to ASTM F3512-21.

The earliest umbrellas were not made to protect users from rain but rather the potent sun. Invented over 4,000 years ago, these umbrellas were used in early civilizations in Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and China as parasols to provide shade. They were made of palm leaves, papyrus, and peacock feathers and were often huge and heavy. Multiple people may have been required to lift them, and in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, umbrellas were actually reserved exclusively for the upper class. ASTM F3512-21: Standard Test Method For Evaluating Wind Safety And Durability Of Market Umbrellas provides test methods to assure safety in the design and manufacture of umbrellas.

Origin of the Waterproof Umbrella

Dating as far back as 3500 BC, the Chinese invented the first waterproof umbrella as protection from the rain when they waxed and lacquered their paper parasol. These parasols were made out of bamboo sticks, and covered with leaves, animal skins, and feathers. These first leather umbrellas were at a very high price and used only by nobility and royalty.

What Is ASTM F3512?

Market umbrellas (MUs) are commonly used as protection against rain, sun, or other potential weather in home, recreation, and commercial business settings. The test methods in ASTM F3512-21 are intended for evaluating MUs to determine the suitability of the MU in a use environment on the basis of wind safety and durability. They apply to most MUs designed for use in-home setting, such as pool or patio areas; recreation areas like the beach, pool, or tennis courts; and theme parks, water parks, resort pools, hotels, restaurants, cafés, and other business settings. ASTM F3512-21 provides standardized methods for evaluating the wind safety and durability of MU using a wind tunnel and rating the performance of the MU on a standardized scale:

  • Procedure A: a safety scenario intended to test the structural strength of the MU to a uniform wind force generated by a wind tunnel.
  • Procedure B: a wind durability scenario intended to determine the ability of the MU to perform in a high wind weather environment for a sustained period.

This standard may be used by MU manufacturers to assess current or proposed designs.

How Did Umbrellas Become Mainstream Products?

The rise of popularity of the waterproof umbrellas in China did not reach Europe until steady trade routes were established in the early part of second millennia AD. As such, the Egyptian style of expensive non-waterproofed sun protecting parasols expanded to Greece and Rome where they were used almost exclusively by wealthy females. The male population of Europe looked at umbrellas as exclusively feminine, so they endured harsh sun and rain with hats and coats.

The fall of the Roman Empire brought the end of the tradition of carrying umbrellas by wealthy females. Harsh environment, lack of food, constant wars, crumbling economy, poor personal hygiene, and lack of technological advancement all led to 1000-year-old absence of parasols and umbrellas in Europe. Only after the start of Renaissance in Italy, France, and England did small and expensive female parasols returned to fashion (late 16th century), likely influenced by the stories and paintings of distant Asian lands that were now accessible via land trade routes. Thus, in the 16th century, it became customary to use umbrellas in rainy climates of northern Europe. Mainstream use of umbrellas became popular in Europe when Catherine de Medici married Henri II of France in 1533 and brought her Italian-style parasols to court.

Umbrellas started being manufactured on a commercial scale after 1750. While female users were still a majority in the 1790s, that changed when Englishman Jonas Hanway bravely used an umbrella publicly for decades, popularizing its usage among men too. English society started accepting umbrellas as a general accessory that could be carried by everyone (when not raining their fashion forced them to carry umbrellas not by end of the handle but in middle, with handle turned toward ground). This trend managed soon to spread across Europe, and countless inventors managed to improve its mechanical design and create numerous umbrella types that are in use even today and may adhere to modern design safety specifications like those in ASTM F3512-21.

Etymology of the Word “Umbrella”

The etymology of “umbrella” is reflected in how ancient civilizations used umbrellas as a means to provide shade from the sun. The English word “umbrella” comes from the Italian word “ombrella,” which originates from the Latin word “umbella,” which is then derived from “umbra.” These Latin terms translate to shade or shadow. Like the word “parasol,” which is a combination of the French words “parare” and “sol” to mean “shield from the sun,” the umbrella was originally used to give oneself shade from the heat of the sun. 

ASTM F3512-21: Standard Test Method For Evaluating Wind Safety And Durability Of Market Umbrellas is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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