|Claire F. Santos Daigle, aka, The Mad Hatter, San Diego
Costume Guild meeting August, 14 2007
Mad Hatter History
The Mad Hatter is generally believed to be based on
Carter. He invented an
alarm clock bed, exhibited at the Great Exhibition, also known as
Crystal Palace, in Hyde Park, London, England of 1851, that tipped out the sleeper at waking-up time.
He later owned a furniture shop, and became known as the Mad Hatter from
his habit of standing in the door of his shop wearing a top hat.
Tenniel an English illustrator was best known for his work in Lewis
Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the
Looking-Glass. There is also the possibility that the root of
the term "mad hatter" is drawn from a time when mercury
was used in the process of curing felt used in some hats. It was
impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off
during the hat making process. Over time, the residual mercury caused
neurological damage, as well as confused speech and distorted vision. As
the mercury poisoning progressed to dangerously high levels, sufferers
could also experience a disconnect from realty symptoms, such as hallucinations.
Given that anyone exhibiting an altered mental state was dubbed mad at
the time, the cause of such malady, and subsequent death of such people
doubtless went unexplained for a long time.
Hat Industry History
Danbury Connecticut was the center of the hat
industry made of felt. From the 1800's to 1950, during 1808 & 1809,
there were 56 hat shops in Danbury known as "hat city" of the
world. In 1849 a machine was introduced, which could form fur felt hat
bodies, nearly eliminating all the small shops which gave way to larger
factories that were concentrated along the banks of the Still River from
West Street to East Liberty Street and eventually helped increase
production levels to over 5,000,000. By 1870 the beaver felt was
developed using a process washing animal
furs with a mercury compound, mercury nitrate. Milliners
that inhaled the vapors came down with Mercury
poisoning which attacks the nervous system, giving the appearance of drunkenness
or in severe cases, symptoms of madness. In 1934 mercury was studied and
by 1943 was never used again.
River played a huge part in the success of hat manufacturing
because the hat making process needed to use a lot of water and also
have a place to dump it's waste.
wore hats indicative of their gender, occupation, social status, season,
interests, and personality.
Danbury Historical Society
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Image Editing Consultant
Always a work in
progress, please visit often. We apologist for any
long periods between entries some times medical issues prevail.