|Words and photo by F LoBuono|
Well, I did a little research and this it what I discovered: Hats, particularly felt hats, became the rage in the middle of 17th Century Europe. One could certainly not attend court if one's head was not topped by the proper chapeau. That trend continued well into the 20th Century (think Abraham Lincoln and his Stovepipe). Felt is apparently made by separating the fur of a beaver from the skin that lies underneath. That skin is then processed to create the felt. Caustic chemicals where used throughout the entire procedure. Now, with the discovery of the New World and its seemingly endless supply of beaver pelts, the hat business was booming. So, the hatters were "hatting away", i.e. making dozens of hats a day while, at the same time, inhaling toxic fumes, hour after hour. It was enough to made one, well, mad!
Now, what that says about people who WEAR hats is a story for another day.