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Why are hatters mad?

Updated on September 24, 2010

The mad hatter was a character in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking glass, two stories about a girl called Alice who went down a rabbit hole into a strange new land. The books were written by Lewis Carroll.

The mad hatter is a strange character who was accused of killing time after a terrible song he sang for the Queen of Hearts. He's stuck for awhile at 6:00, forever drinking tea. He later appears as a character called Hatta in the second book, trying to escape the law.

Of course the question many people have asked is why exactly the hatter was mad? Was this a character chosen at random or does it have a deeper reference to hatters as a trade?

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter
Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

The phrase 'As mad as a hatter' was in common usage around the time the book was written. But where did the phrase originate? Here are some common suggestions for its origination.

  • Mercury was used to create felt - a common ingredient in hats several centuries ago. Mercury can cause hallucinations and other mental problems, so this is a big contender for the origin of the phrase.
  • A hatter called Roger Crab lived on leaves and grass after giving all his goods to the poor.
  • According to original translation, the word mad meant venomous and the word hatter was another word for atter - or adder. So basically, mad as a hatter could be taken to mean 'As venomous as an adder.'

Photo thanks to Michael on Picasa Web


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    • TheTruthasIseeit profile image

      TheTruthasIseeit 6 years ago from Virginia

      That's neat. I never really thought about it, but it gives some insight into the times and how people lived. Voted up and interesting!