DYK: Mad as a hatter is not from Alice in Wonderland like I thought

mad as a hatter

Mad as a hatter  is not from Alice in Wonderland like I once thought.

Mad as a Hatter comes from the fact that in the 18th and 19th centuries hat makers treated hats with mercury which became a hazardous occupation. This was known to have affected the nervous systems of hatters, causing them to tremble and appear insane. A neurotoxicologist correspondent informs me that “Mercury exposure can cause aggressiveness, mood swings, and anti-social behaviour.”, so that derivation is certainly plausible – although there’s only that circumstantial evidence to support it.

The use of mercury compounds in 19th century hat making and the resulting effects are well-established – mercury poisoning is still known today as ‘Mad Hatter’s disease’. That could be enough to convince us that this is the source of the phrase. The circumstantial evidence is rather against the millinery origin though and, beyond the fact that hatters often suffered trembling fits, there’s little to link hat making to the coining of ‘as mad as a hatter’.

 

WHERE DO I START? Hints and Tips for Beginning Genealogists with On-line resources

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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