Tôle peinte (painted metal sheet)
Height: 24 cm
The top hat first became popular in the Regency era: the first silk top hat was invented by a Middlesex hatter in 1793, and the first collapsible top hat in 1812. It had become very common by the 1850s, when it was given the royal imprimatur by Prince Albert. The production of top hats, however, occasionally caused hatters (who produced men’s hats; milliners made women’s headgear) to develop ‘erethism’, a neurological disorder caused by the mercury used to stabilise felting wool – a condition famously exhibited by the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland of 1865.
Hatter’s Trade Sign about 1850 © Compton Verney