|The Mad Hatter, illustration by John Tenniel , 1865|
Today we are most familiar with "The Mad Hatter" from Lewis Carroll's famous "Alice in Wonderland," but the saying goes back further than Carroll's 1865 publication, and potentially had nothing at all to do with the crafters of fine headwear.
The common belief is that the name "Mad Hatter" references the fate of hatmakers who suffered from consistent inhalation of mercury, a chemical commonly used in the curing of hat felts. The long term effects of breathing mercury everyday included uncontrollable twitching, trembling, and demented behavior. It makes perfect sense to us today, when we imagine the illustrative renditions of Carroll's famous character.
|The Depp-Burton version of the character, entirely obnoxious, but creative. For the record, his hat is really quite spectacular, though doesn't appear to be made of fur felt...|
|I bite you!|
|A beaver felt hat, all the rage for particularly men's headwear in the 19th and early 20th c.|