Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Mad Hatter Disease

14 June 1875
Le journal des modistes, June 1875
PM 8181

In the 19th century, mercury was used in the production of felt. Hatmakers were exposed to mercury fumes during the hat making process, which caused dementia, confused speech and distorted vision. This occupational disease was baptized 'mad hatter disease' or 'mad hatter syndrome'.  Alternatives to mercury use in hatmaking became available by 1874. According to Le journal des modistes et des lingères of June 1875, straw and horsehair were the new basic fabrics for fashionable ladies' hats. "Geraniums, poppies, and cornflowers are very popular" in Paris.  "The bonnets and the hats look like walking gardens."