Awnings have changed little throughout history; historical records identify Syria and Egypt as places where similar coverings were used in ancient times.
The Roman Empire utilized awnings to cover stadiums and amphitheaters, frequently employing retractable versions.
By the mid-1800s, awnings had become common fixtures on storefronts and other businesses.
Early renditions were simply iron or timber posts linked with a crossbar, with angled rafters running from the building facade to the crossbar, then draped over with canvas.
Awning production increased after the Civil War, and during the Industrial Revolution more colorful, ornate designs evolved.
Awnings may be fixed or retractable, and retraction was originally done manually by hand-rolling the canvas up the rafters.
Operable systems appeared in the late 1800s, featuring hinged extension arms worked with a rope and pulley.
This allowed for easier adjustment of awning coverage based on weather conditions, but unattractive, jammed folds of retracted canvas became an issue.
To remedy this, metal or wooden rollers were incorporated for the canvas to wrap around, providing neater storage.
These were frequently operated with a winding brace, a kind of detachable, long handle that many awnings still use; electric motors were later utilized on some models.
Other than providing shade and protection, awnings have also developed as artistic and advertising vessels.
Striped and patterned color schemes have evolved over time to enhance the outward appearance of buildings and houses.
Businesses commonly display their names and other information on awnings, using colors and designs that grab attention.
By the 1950s, polyester, acrylic, and vinyl awnings were replacing traditional canvas, while aluminum and fiberglass models also began to appear, claiming durability and easier maintenance.
Scissor-arm styles featuring smaller hinged arms, and lateral-arm awnings operating horizontally have since been developed.
With regular cleaning and maintenance, both new and vintage awnings can serve a building for many years, and the styles, colors, and materials available for today's awnings are almost limitless.