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In the second half of the 19th century, manufactured operable awnings grew in popularity. Previously, most awnings had fixed frames-the primary way to retract the covering was to roll it up the rafters by hand. Operable systems for both storefront and window awnings had extension arms that were hinged where they joined the facade. The arms were lowered to project the awning or raised to retract the awning using simple rope and pulley arrangements. Because the canvas remained attached to the framework, retractable awnings allowed a more flexible approach to shading (shopkeepers and owners could incrementally adjust the amount of awning coverage depending upon the weather conditions). When the sun came out from behind clouds, the awning could be deployed with ease. In case of sudden storms, owners could quickly retract the awning against the building wall where it was protected from wind gusts.
Despite their advantages, early operable awnings had drawbacks; when retracted, their cloth coverings often bunched up against the building facade. This left part of the fabric exposed to inclement weather, and deterioration was often accelerated by moisture pooling in the folds of fabric. If poorly designed or badly placed, the retracted fabric could obscure part of the window or door opening, and even if out of the way an imperfectly folded awning presented an unkempt appearance. Modern materials and designs have eliminated all of these issues.