Mad Hatters, The Radium Girls & The Asbestos Hotel: Stories of NJ Industrial Toxins

Event Date: October 21st, 2018 at 1:00pm
Address : 523 Ridgewood Road
Town : Maplewood

Mad Hatters, The Radium Girls and The Asbestos Hotel: Storiesof New Jersey Industrial Toxins

Sunday, 10/21, 2pm, at Durand-Hedden; house and store open 1 to 4 pm

Industrial toxins are an inescapable part of the history of the industrial state of New Jersey, and played a role in our very local history. In recent decades, New Jersey has been home to over 140 EPA-administered Superfund cleanup sites. Protection for workers and compensation for those suffering and sometimes dying from industrial exposures have been relatively recent developments.

Historically, three New Jersey industrial toxins – mercury, radium, and asbestos – have their own harrowing stories to tell. The hatting industry, which thrived in dozens of small shops in Essex County including in Orange, South Orange, and Millburn in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, exposed workers to toxic mercury fumes, causing mental and physical disabilities. In the interwar years, dozens of radium dial painters at a factory in Orange – all young women – suffered and died from radiation-induced bone cancer and bone degeneration. At mid-century, workers at Manville, the “asbestos city,” fell ill with damaged lungs and a rare tumor called mesothelioma, as did workers who installed the insulation products produced at the Manville plant.

On Sunday, October 21, at 2pm at Durand-Hedden House in Maplewood (house and store open from 1 to 4pm), speaker Dr. Sandra Moss will tell this gripping story in an illustrated talk. Audience input and observations are welcome. Dr. Moss is a retired internist who talks lectures and writes about the history of medicine in New Jersey. She is past president of the Medical History Society of New Jersey and of the American Osler Society (a national organization for historians of medicine.) An author of numerous articles, chapters, and reviews, she has also written three books about New Jersey’s medical history. 

Country Shopping

Durand-Hedden’s charming Country Store will open for the season at this event. Check out historic-themed treasures such as early American games, books, and toys; facsimile documents; quill pens and ink; historic cookbooks; cookie molds; tin lanterns; and reproductive decorative items and ceramics. You’ll also discover the hard-to-find original Doors of Maplewood poster, Smile: A Pictorial History of Olympic Park 1887-1965, and the new acid-free reproduction of the 1931 Map of Maplewood.


About Durand-Hedden House and Garden

Durand-Hedden House is dedicated to telling the social and natural history of the development of Maplewood and the surrounding area in new and engaging ways. It is located in Grasmere Park at 523 Ridgewood Road in Maplewood. For more information or to arrange group tours call 973-763-7712. You can also visit our website at and find us on Facebook and Twitter.


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