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Journal RSS journal posts · 2024 · 2023 · 2022 · 2021 · {and before that

Mad Hatter

Columbia/Screen Gems, 1940

The mercury effect on the hat-making process: Erethism 

 | pall youhideme
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"Fun fact: many hatters back then went mad because of the gasses they inhaled from the hat-making process. The gasses were poisonous and messed with their heads, rendering them incapable of working properly. This donned the term "mad as a hatter." - YT comment, [...] "The funny thing, if Wikipedia is to be believed, is that people in Europe knew about the effects of the mercury as early as the late 19th century. The US wouldn't pass legislation changing the hat-making process until 1941 due to the war effort stressing the demand for mercury. Though, I suspect the animators created this film as much to make fun of contemporary hat designs as much as it probably may have also been to raise awareness of the issue..." - one more YT comment.

So, I stumbled into this animation short film, Mad Hatter, 1940 Color Rhapsody cartoon, directed by Sid Marcus: here's Maisie, a secretary, after her work she goes shopping. She has a thing for hats. "Maisie tries on a wide variety of hats, but her heart is set on #36, which she's told must be special ordered. She orders it, and we switch to the hat workshop, where we see the designers, all of them clearly insane". - I particularly love that one trying to catch his own finger with the same hand. Try that.
Ok, mad hatter, Alice, we all know. Then here's Erethism: "mad hatter disease, or mad hatter syndrome, is a neurological disorder which affects the whole central nervous system, as well as a symptom complex, derived from mercury poisoning." (wiki) [..] "Historically, this was common among old England felt-hatmakers who had long-term exposure to vapors from the mercury they used to stabilize the wool in a process called felting, where hair was cut from a pelt of an animal such as a rabbit." - so, "Mad as a hatter". Still, "Lewis Carroll's iconic Mad Hatter character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland displays markedly eccentric behavior [..]  Carroll would have been familiar with the phenomenon of dementia among hatters, but the literary character is thought to be directly inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer who did not show signs of mercury poisoning".

So, press play, enjoy it.

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