W. & W.H. Richardson's Umbrella and Parasol Manufactory
‘A Voice From The Clouds,’ November 27, 1875

William H. Richardson was an umbrella, parasol, and sunshade manufacturer and retailer in Philadelphia during the mid-19th century. During the era, parasols and sunshades were quite popular, and used by ladies to shield themselves from the rays of the sun. Though parasols and sunshades were unsuitable for use in rain because of the materials used to construct them, umbrellas like those used today were used instead to shield pedestrians from inclement weather.

W. & W.H. Richardson's Umbrella and Parasol Manufactory
An 1840s Advertisement for W & W. H. Richardson’s Umbrella and Parasol Manufactory

Richardson had invented several variations of umbrellas and parasols. One umbrella doubled in use as a cane, employing a handle at its end which, when the umbrella was folded, also acted as a handle while being used as a cane. Another one of his umbrella models doubled as a sleeper — the handle could be converted into a head rest, and used for sleeping while traveling via buggy. A third innovation was Richardson’s compact umbrella, which could be folded, reduced, and packed into a truck. One other innovation included creating lightweight umbrellas; his rectangular steel tube model is said to have only weighed 9 ounces.

In addition to these, Richardson also patented several features for his umbrellas, including:

Report of the Commissioner of Patents - 'Hook for Fastening Umbrellas'
‘Hook for Fastening Umbrellas’
Report of the Commissioner of Patents, Government Printing Office, Washington 1864

During Richardson’s era, Philadelphia was a city well known for its umbrella manufacturing. Of the several factories and merchants who fashioned and sold them, Richardson was renowned throughout the Eastern United States for fabricating quality products.

By mid-century, the Philadelphia area employed about 2,500 individuals involved directly and indirectly in their manufacture. The typical employee was female, and earned anywhere from $2 to $5 per week.

In 1847 Philadelphia became such a predominate manufacturer that its total sales only rivaled Paris, France. By 1853, approximately $2,000,000 in sales of umbrellas and parasols were achieved from their manufacture in Philadelphia alone.

En Plein Soleil, James McNeill Whistler, 1858, Library Congress Woman Parasol Paris 1859 FP-XIX-W576, no 15
‘En Plein Soleil,’ James McNeill Whistler, circa 1858-59


Numismatic Specimens

Below are several William H. Richardson tokens. During the decade which these tokens were struck, Richardson moved his establishment several times, as evidenced by the addresses struck on his storecards.

The first token, Miller PA-416, dates to 1844 and was struck in brass.  I estimate it to be AU in grade.

Miller PA-416
Miller PA-416

The second token, Miller PA-418, dates to the 1850s. Also struck in brass it is MS63 in grade, with 60% brightness.

Miller PA-418
Miller PA-418

The next token, Miller Pa-419, dates to circa 1853. Struck in copper, I estimate it to be choice uncirculated in grade.

Miller Pa-419 circa 1853 W.H. Richardson Umbrellas & Parasols No 5 South 4th St Philadelphia Pa
Miller Pa-419

The next token, Miller Pa-420, dates to circa 1853. Silvered brass, it has EF-40 Details. Much of its silvering has been removed, most probably intentionally.

Miller Pa-420 circa 1853 W.H. Richardson Umbrellas & Parasols No 5 South 4th St Philadelphia Pa
Miller Pa-420

The next token, Miller Pa-421A, dates to circa 1850s. It is MS64 in grade at 80% brightness.

Miller Pa-421A circa 1858 Wm. H. Richardson 418 Market St  Umbrellas Very Superior Expressly for Retailers Parasols
Miller PA-421A

The next token, Miller PA-421B also dates to the 1851s. Despite its darker obverse surface, the specimen is Choice AU at 20% brightness.

Miller PA-421B
Miller PA-421B

The next token, Miller Pa-422, dates to 1859. Also struck in brass, I estimate its grade to be choice uncirculated.

Miller Pa-422 circa 1859 W. H. Richardson 807 Market St  Philadelphia

The next token, Miller PA-423 dates to circa 1845. Struck in brass, the specimen is approximately EF in grade.

Miller PA-423
Miller PA-423

The next token, Miller Pa-424, dates to 1845. Also struck in brass, it has Extra Fine Details due to its surface scratches.

Miller Pa-424 circa 1845 W.H. Richardson 104 Market St. Philadelphia
Miller Pa-424

The next token, Miller PA-427 dates sometime from 1846 to 1850.  It is approximately Choice AU in grade at 30% brightness.

Miller PA-427
Miller PA-427

The next token, Miller NY-657 has beautiful mirror surfaces. It is Mint State in grade, and dates to the 1850s.  The New York City tokens were struck as storecards for Richardson’s New York City retail stores.

Miller NY-657
Miller NY-657

The next token is neither listed in Adams or Rulau.  It is the same variety as the NY-657 pictured above, but was struck in copper. It is a discovery specimen acquired from Richard J. Crosby.

NY-657x Copper
NY-657x, Struck in Copper

The final token, Miller NY-658, dates to the 1850s. Struck to advertise Richardson’s store in New York City, it is also struck in brass, and is MS-63 in grade.

Miller NY-658 circa 1850s Wm. H. Richardson 418 Market St 229 Broadway Umbrellas Very Superior Expressly for Retailers Parasols
Miller NY-658

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
  2. Philadelphia and Its Manufactures: A Hand-Book, Edwin Troxell Freedley, 1858, pg.392
  3. Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1864 Volume 1, United States Government Printing Office, 1864, pg. 307
  4. Library of Congress Archives
Aaron Packard

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