It may be common knowledge that Danbury is Hat City. A title derived from the fact that this was the hat making capital of the world. But where did the term Mad Hatter come from? It may well have been one of our own hat makers who was the inspiration for the iconic Mad Hatter Character in Alice In Wonderland. You may have heard the expression “mad as a hatter” which dates back to the Victorian era.

Why were Danbury’s hatters so mad? Come to find out via wikipediaMad hatter disease is a real thing. It’s a result of mercury poisoning. The process used to make felt and fur hats included working directly with mercury as well as inhaling the vapors. Often times, exposed hat makers would become delirious, irritable, depressed, suffer from memory loss, and more. Their tremors would become so bad that they couldn’t hold a glass of water without spilling it.

According to Daily University Science News, over five million hats a year were produced in 56 different factories between the 1850’s and World War 2 when hat making was in its heyday in Danbury. There was some legislation enacted to protect workers from poisoning, but it seems the laws were too few -- too late.

The Communications Department at University of Connecticut tells us the term “Danbury Shakes” was coined as members of the workforce with tremors, sadly were never able to recover from the damage done by their hazardous work here in Western Connecticut.

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