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Richard Pritchard
A Veteran of the Army and the Navy Flees from his Master Hatter

January 8, 1751

The Pennsylvania Gazette

Run away on the 30th of December last, from the subscriber living in Packston township, Lancaster county, and province of Pennsylvania, a servant man, named Richard Pritchard, born in Wales, but was brought up in Ireland, a middle size fellow, well set, of a fresh complexion, one of his under teeth longer than the rest, [1] with short black hair, almost as coarse as horsehair, speaks with a lisp, and takes snuff, about 25 or 30 years of age [2]: Had on when he went away, a large felt hat, worsted cap, two shorts, one ruffled, a blue German serge coat, with flash sleeves, an olive green coat, half worn, long waisted, with short skirts, old cloth breeches, with metal buttons, dark brown stockings, and a pair of blue worsted ones, and old shoes, one of them has a slit in the upper leather, it being too tight, with brass buckles: Said servant has been in the army, and on board a man of war, and pretends to know something of the plaisterer, painter, and miller business.

Whoever takes up and secures said servant, or gives notice of him, to Jeremiah Warder, Hatter, [3] in Philadelphia, so that his master may have him again, shall have Three Pounds reward, and reasonable charges, paid by James McKnight, or John Harris, Ferryman.


1. Part of the reason for checking the teeth of a servant was to determine his ability to subsist on a rough diet, however, the aspect of police work involving the checking of dental records seems as if it might owe something to the slave-catching business of old.

2. The age of people sold into bondage was largely a matter of speculation as many were orphaned or sold out of poor families with no records of attending doctors or midwives, such that existed for the wealthy.

3. Hatters worked with mercury, which was used in processing animal products in the making of hats. Mercury poisoning results in insanity, hence the old term, "mad as a hatter." Ironically, mercury was also used to treat syphilis.

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Jeremy BenthamJanuary 8, 2017 5:03 PM UTC

Mercury poisoning can impair the speech center of the brain. A person with severe mercury poisoning was/ is often unable to speak coherently and form intelligible sentences. Schizophrenic people also tend to babble unintelligibly. This led people in the past to presume that people displaying the symptoms of mercury poisoning were insane, "mad", like the schizophrenics. Alchemists in the distant past discovered that certain metals like mercury and silver were poisonous to bacteria just as lead is poisonous to humans. Mercury and sliver could be used to kill the infection in a wound. So eventually someone got the idea to use mercury to treat syphilis. Syphilis was as big a scourge back in the day as AIDS is today. Did drinking mercury cure syphilis? No, but then given that advanced syphilis can produce so many bizarre and debilitating symptoms and afflictions it would have been hard to tell way back then if it was the disease or the medicine that was killing the patient. Advanced syphilis often caused psychosis, disordered thinking and disordered speech as well. The patient was doomed to die a painful and undignified death regardless. People afflicted with syphilis were of course grasping at straws and trying anything that might possibly relieve their symptoms and prolong their lives.
responds:January 9, 2017 8:03 PM UTC

Jeremy, you must have three brains!