The biggest hat maker in Bankside was Cooper Tress & Co. Their head office is now the Mad Hatter Hotel on the corner of Stamford Street, a small but distinguished 19th century building surrounded by new development. Cooper Tress specialized in a wide range of hats for men and women – top hats, safari hats for expats and the colonies, ladies hats of all descriptions through to cloth caps and pith helmets. Close to his premises were two fur cutters in nearby Holland Street (H. Kent and the Sennett Brothers who supplied felts to hat makers). Rabbit skins were imported in large quantities from Australia and New Zealand as the raw material. Working in poor conditions in cramped warehouses, armies of girls and women first pulled course hair from the skins before passing them to the ‘carroters’ who brushed the fur with a solution of quicksilver (mercury) and nitric acid to give the pelts a silk-like finish. Mercury is known to be highly toxic but even at that time Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter (1865) gives a clue to the toxic effect the ‘carroting’ process had on the female workforce.
20”x16” (406 mm x 508 mm)