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Revelers flip their lids to mark historical society centennial

April 01, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • Anne Lehman, left, and her husband, John Lehman, of Chambersburg, and Tina Angle of Hagerstown celebrate the Washington County Historical Society's 100th anniversary Friday night at The Mad Hatter's Ball at Fountain Head Country Club in Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Hats of every shape and style floated through the ballroom Friday night at Fountain Head Country Club as 160 people commemorated the past 100 years of the Washington County Historical Society.

The theme of the event was The Mad Hatter’s Ball, society Executive Director Linda Irvin-Craig said.
Anchoring the room was an 11-foot tree adorned with dozens of hats from nearly every decade, Roger Fairbourn said.

Fairbourn, vice president of the board of directors, said while the society was founded in 1911, the height of the tree he built for the event was merely coincidence.

Established as a fundraiser to kick off the society’s 100-year celebration, board member Jenny Bullington and board Secretary Susan Peterson said the society began the celebration on Friday by reaching its fundraising goal for the evening.

Between sponsorships, ticket sales, and donations, Peterson said the society raised about $25,000. A silent auction was also held Friday evening during the event.  

Tickets to the black-tie affair, which included dinner and dancing, ran guests $100, Irvin-Craig said.

“I think its going to be absolutely the most fun evening,” Bullington said while preparing for guests to arrive. “Everyone is wearing the most incredible hats.”

From the outlandish, homemade and whimsical, to the historic, rare and sentimental, the hats took center stage for the evening.

Irvin-Craig said the society has a collection of hats that numbers in the hundreds, and the event Friday allowed the society to showcase its unique collection, which includes a number of top hats believed to be responsible for the title “mad hatter.”

Film adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” often come to mind when people hear the name “mad hatter,” Irvin-Craig said.

But the phrase “mad as a hatter” originated more than a century  ago when hatters used chemicals to stiffen their hats — chemicals that drove many “mad,” she said

Though the chemicals blamed for maddening hatters have long dissipated, the charm of their hats have endured, she said.

Some breathed with new life Friday on the heads of patrons of the Washington County Historical Society.

Irvin-Craig said the society has more than 300 members in 14 states. It was incorporated in September 1911.

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