Ever wonder why the March Hare is pictured with straw on top of his head? In Victorian times straw on top of the head was used to portray madness. Then, of course, we have the Mad Hatter. In the nineteenth century, mercury was used in the making of hats. Because hatters worked so closely with this dangerous chemical, many of them became poisoned by it. The effects of mercury poisoning include: “tremors; emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness); insomnia; neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching); headaches; disturbances in sensations; changes in nerve responses; performance deficits on tests of cognitive function.” With all those symptoms, it’s easy to see why people would think that hatters were insane. Thus came the term “mad as a hatter”, and thus are the origins of the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Want more nonsense? Here’s the link to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland for those of you who are “curiouser and curiouser”: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11/11-h/11-h.htm
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