When Jonas Hanway, fresh from a trip to France, strutted down the streets of London boasting an umbrella on yet another rainy day in the early 1750s, he became public enemy number one. At the time, to use an umbrella in England was social suicide and, as Atlas Obscura notes, such a "detestable, effeminate" gadget displayed "weakness of character" and was considered "too French."

The British also regarded umbrellas as too French—inspired by the parasol, a Far Eastern contraption that for centuries kept nobles protected from the sun, the umbrella had begun to flourish in France in the early 18th century when Paris merchant Jean Marius invented a lightweight, folding version that, with added waterproofing materials, could protect users from rain and snow. In 1712, the French Princess Palatine purchased one of Marius’s umbrellas; soon after, it became a must-have accessory for noblewomen across the country. Later British umbrella users reported being called "mincing Frenchm[e]n" for carrying them in public.

While Hanway was subject to any passerby's wrath, the worst abuse came from cab drivers, whose business would be threatened by the umbrella's rise in popularity.

Fearing an interruption in their personal incomes, many hansom cab drivers and sedan chair carriers grew violent toward Hanway. According to the British history magazine Look and Learn, when they saw him walking by, they often "pelted him with rubbish." On one occasion, a hansom cab driver even tried to run Hanway over with his coach. Hanway reacted by using his umbrella to "give the man a good thrashing."

Head over to Atlas Obscura to read more