Although other forms of allergic disease were described in antiquity, hay fever is surprisingly modern. Very rare descriptions can be traced back to Islamic texts of the 9th century and European texts of the 16th century. It was only in the early 19th century that the disease was carefully described and at that time was regarded as most unusual. By the end of the 19th century it had become commonplace in both Europe and North America. This paper attempts to chart the growth of hay fever through the medical literature of the 19th century. It is hoped that an understanding of the increase in prevalence between 1820 and 1900 may provide an insight for modern researchers and give some clues into possible reasons for the epidemic nature of the disease today.