“The Umbrella: A Dangerous Weapon” (1900)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Sunday, 26th November 2017

This article from the Bristol Mercury of May 14, 1900 is typical of many hundreds of newspaper reports illustrating the deadly potential of umbrella thrusts, whether delivered accidentally or deliberately.

In days gone by everyone carried a sword; now everyone carries an umbrella, which recent experience shows to to be almost as dangerous an instrument. During recent years its construction has been so altered that the harmless gamp, with which, at the worst, one could but thrash a man, has been turned into a rapier-like instrument, with  which it is by  no means difficult to run him through, and thus in moments of excitement people find themselves in in the possession of a “skewer,” the potentialities of which of they are hardly aware of.

With the object, no doubt, of giving a slim and dandified appearance, many umbrellas are now made with steel “stick,” and so fine are some of these that the point is very little thicker than the blade of a foil, and is capable of doing quite as much injury if lunged into an antagonist, and this even without the employment of much force, if the proper spot should  happen to be entered.

Last Saturday a charge of manslaughter was tried at the Central Criminal  Court which shows well what may be done with a steel umbrella. As the sequel of a very ordinary quarrel in a public house, the deceased followed the accused into a room and went up to him, when, as was alleged, the latter thrust an umbrella towards his face. The point entered his cheek, he became unconscious, was taken home in a cab, and died four days afterwards.

At the poet-mortem examination, four and a half inches of the umbrella stick, which was of iron, were found embedded in his skull, one inch of its length having entered his brain.  This piece of iron was stated to have become so firmly fixed that the medical men who performed the post-mortem examination had to use a chisel to remove it.

The prisoner was acquitted, the jury apparently accepting the statement made by him to the effect that the deceased rushed upon the point of the umbrella, and that the fatal result was accidental. This, however, all the more emphasises what we say about the dangerous character of the modern umbrella with its rapier-like point. If, in an ordinary fray, without malice or premeditation, it is possible to bury an umbrella point upwards of four inches deep in a man’s head, it is obvious enough that, in the hands of those who are skilled in fence, steel umbrellas must be almost as dangerous as the swords which our great-grandfathers used to whip out on the smallest provocation, much to each other’s detriment.

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