Awning Fabrics

Awning Evolution Thru the Ages

Awnings are a lot older than you might think. In fact, awnings date back to ancient Egyptian and Syrian times, according to the National Park Service.


Awnings are a lot older than you might think. According to the National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, they date back to ancient Egyptian and Syrian times. Woven mats were used to shade market stalls and homes; in the Roman Empire, awnings were used in stadiums like the Coliseum! Roman awnings were retractable and made from fabrics like linen. Awnings were used to protect people from the sun and bad weather. And today, we know that awnings can reduce air conditioning costs by as much as 25 percent and protect us from harmful UV rays!

Since those ancient times, awning evolution continued throughout the world. From shading amphitheaters to markets and homes, awnings have proven to be familiar and have become valuable and essential building accessories.

By the early-19th century, awnings were a common sight. Fabrics, including canvas, were used in the production of awnings which were placed connected to buildings as an extension and shade area. These fixed awnings were very popular because they provided natural climate control. But the construction of awnings was pretty simple; cast iron posts were used with a front cross bar that linked it to the building. 

By the latter half of the 19th century, awnings became operable and could be raised and retracted using a simple rope and pulley system. But, the operable awnings' drawbacks didn’t allow the material to be fully protected from harsh weather, and moisture would pool. The fabric also had to be neatly folded, or it would look messy. That’s when the roller awning made its debut. The roller awning utilized a wood or metal cylinder, which allowed the awning material to be stored properly when it was retracted; thus, no mess and no exposure to wind, sun, rain, or snow when it wasn’t in use. The roller awning used a detachable handle or gearbox for retraction.

Even the type of frames used to construct awnings has changed. In ancient times, timber frames were used. By the 19th century, iron plumbing pipe was used. By the 20th and 21st centuries, various materials were used in awning frames, including aluminum, stainless, and galvanized steel. 

Even the type of fabrics used for awnings has evolved from simple linen and canvas to polyester vinyl composites, acrylic, and others. Awning fabrics can now be made waterproof, UV-ray resistant, etc. Fabric manufacturers like Herculite Inc. specialize in producing textiles with the above features. Herculite has a line of awning fabrics that are fire-resistant, waterproof, stain and mildew-resistant, scratch resistant, and more! We’ve come a long way since ancient times when linen made awnings!

The awning has had a long and rich history; it’s gone from simple construction to a complex building accessory and advertising component of many businesses. Today, awnings have evolved to include a variety of fabrics and frames that retract, are fixed, and utilize different shapes, colors, and sizes. You can get awnings with your printed design and have them in various forms.


Today, you can even have your awning custom engineered. It’s incredible how far we’ve come when you think about the evolution of the awning and where we were, and where we are now. For more information about awning fabrics, visit



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