Monday, February 16, 2015

The Mad Hatter

You can read Part I of this blog post HERE.

I now have George’s death certificate1 (Thank you, Kirsty Gray!).  Click the image to make it bigger and then take a look at the cause of death.  Not bad for my very first death certificate from England.  Now I want to know more. (Note, the GRO accidentally typed in 1840 at the top.  It is supposed to be 1860 which is confirmed by the date written on the certificate itself).



And here is a newspaper account that answers some of the questions.

SUICIDE OF A TRADESMAN IN PICADILLY BY THE FUMES OF CHARCOAL – On Monday night, Mr. Langham, deputy coroner for Westminster, held an inquest in St. George’s vestry-room, Grosvenor-square, on the body of Mr. George Glaentzer, hatter, of 55, Piccadilly, who died from the inhalation of the fumes of charcoal in a small room in the above-mentioned house.  From the testimony of several witnesses, it appeared that the deceased was an unmarried man, and being pressed with pecuniary difficulties, a sheriff’s officer took possession of his premises for a debt of 44l. 8s. 2d. Deceased took it much to heart, and desired the sheriff’s officer to leave, and on his refusal he took up his hat and said, “If you will not go, I must,” and immediately left the house. He, however, returned about a quarter to eleven at night and went up-stairs to bed, and not rising as usual about six o’clock, some alarm was created, and on the door being burst open he was found lying on a mattress partially dressed and quite dead. The jury returned a verdict of “Suicide by suffocation from charcoal whilst in a state of unsound mind.” 2

It is interesting that George was a hatter because there might have been a contributing cause to his “insanity.” “Mad Hatter Disease” or chronic mercury poisoning was an occupational hazard of hatters during this time period. The symptoms included neurological problems such as mental confusion and emotional disturbances.3

George’s probate file is on order. Maybe there are more answers there.


1 England and Wales, death certificate for George Glaentzer, died 27 September 1860; citing 1a/157/271, December quarter 1860, Saint George Hanover Square registration district, May Fair sub-district; General Register Office, Southport. 

2 "Suicide of a tradesman in Piccadilly by the fumes of charcoal," Reynolds Newspaper, 07 October 1860, p. 7, col. 4; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 14 February 2015).  

3 “Mad Hatter Disease,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 14 February 2015).


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Interesting post. First of all, who knew mad hatter's disease was a real thing? I sure didn't. I have gleaned a lot of information from the English and Scottish vital records I've received. Can't wait to see his probate record.

    1. This is my first dip into English records and I am learning a lot about where to find what. Kirsty Gray of The Surname Society has been helping me. George died intestate but I am hoping there was some fighting over what little property he left so that there will be more information in the file.