Angry Capsters

March 5, 2012

So I finally listened to a Missed in History podcast yesterday. It’s been a while because I’ve been enthralled in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” in audiobook form (a great format for Russian literature since pronouncing the names is tricky for English speakers). The podcast was about the Lincoln assassination, but sadly there was little I didn’t already know since I watched a documentary about it a year or so ago. But in their wrap-up they mentioned Mad Hatters in a literal sense, which compelled me to look it up later.

It turns out that in 18th and 19th century England mercury was used in the production of felt that was used in the making of hats. The workers in these factories (the “hatters”) were exposed to significant quantities of the toxic substance and some suffered from dementia as a result of mercury poisoning. It was common enough that “mad as a hatter” came to be synonymous with “crazy person” during this period.

The phrase is usually associated with the character The Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” which was written in 1865 (Lewis Carroll never actually uses the term “Mad Hatter,” though the character is clearly insane and the Cheshire Cat refers to him as “mad”). Carroll grew up in Stockport, where hat-making was a prominent trade, so he would have very likely been aware of the phrase.


2 Responses to “Angry Capsters”

  1. tonykulla said

    This photo is a few years old now… and I still miss that cap. I lost it in South Carolina. It’s a “Champ Car” cap but what I really like is the orange and grey color scheme and the “Play” logo they used (Champ Car merged with Indycar after a decade long split that killed its audience and helped lead to rise of NASCAR). I’ve searched everywhere online for another one like this but have had no luck.

  2. Kim Lanowy said

    thats one hat I don’t love on you- you look like a criminal :/

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