A History of Venetian Blinds

The name “window blind” can be used to denote any type of window covering. Blinds are a wonderful creation used to tame the sun’s rays and provide privacy. In early Rome they were used in doorways to block dust from entering the home. Blinds are found today in many homes and businesses. They are even found in airplanes and many automobiles. And if asked, most people would say that blinds are a creation of the modern man. Although one won’t find plentiful writings in historical texts that talk about window coverings, photographs of history can give us some earlier clues.

They are how old?

Although commonly called Venetian Blinds, it is thought that the origination of blinds date back to the early 12th century. Their early use has been documented in China and Egypt through the research of paintings. Window coverings (blinds) have been documented in Pompeii excavations which place their origination to before 79AD.

The move West

In early trade routes Merchants traveled between the Middle East and the trading empires on the Italian coast, Venice being one of the most prominent. It is believed that the use of blinds migrated west through these trade routes. Gaining popularity in Venice, blinds started being called Venetian blinds. Freed slaves from Venice continued the westerly route. Many settled in France and used blind making to support their families in the early Middle Ages. The use of blinds continued to travel west and patents were documented in London in 1760. The migration to the west, and to colonial America, continued with John Webster whose upholstery shop in Philadelphia began selling blinds in 1767. One of the earliest advertisements for blinds was found in a Philadelphia publication in 1767.

They made them with what?

The early Chinese designed blinds made of bamboo and the Egyptians used reeds. As the use of blinds migrated west, the building material changed to locally available fabrics and wood was frequently used strung between runners of fabric. Wooden Venetian blinds caught on quickly in colonial America. Fabric needed to manufacture draperies was imported from Europe with a hefty cost and high tariffs. Wooden blinds quickly became a welcome replacement for the higher priced curtains. And the evolution of blinds expanded rapidly from there with the invention of a mechanism to control the angle of the slats by John Hampson in 1841 and the introduction of the use of aluminum in 1936.

Where are we now?

Today there are many versions of window blinds. Some of the more popular versions are;

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