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Character Corner: THE MAD HATTER

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

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This session will introduce you to The Mad Hatter. In honor of “Mad Hatter Day,” we will give you some information on The Mad Hatter - who he is, where he’s from, and everything in between. Although Mad Hatter Day falls on 10/6 because of the fraction/numbers on his top hat, according to some people, because the date in the Europe starts with the day and ends with the month, Mad Hatter day is supposed to be on June 10th. But, because we are in the US, we will stick with the month/day version and keep it on October 6th.

Photo Credit: Mercer Museum

The Mad Hatter was first introduced in Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and in its sequel, “Through the Looking Glass.” Although he is known as the “mad” hatter, Lewis Carroll only referred to him as the Hatter. English Illustrator John Tenniel drew the Hatter wearing a top hat with the number 10/6 written on them depicting the cost of hat, which was 10 shillings and 6 pence. This turned into The Mad Hatter Day, using the numbers 10/6 as the October 6th. The Mad Hatter and his tea party friend, the March Hare were both referred to as “mad” by the Cheshire Cat and make their debuts in chapter 7 in “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland,” called “The Mad Tea Party.”

Photo Credit: The Lazy Historian

Hat making was the main trade in Lewis Carroll’s hometown of Stockport. Mercury was used in the manufacturing of felt hats during this time causing a high rate of mercury poisoning among those who worked in the factories. Many died due to mercury poisoning, but it was not unusual for hatters to seem disturbed or confused, hence the term “mad as a hatter.”

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Rumor has it that Lewis Carroll intended the hatter to be name Theophilus Carter, after the eccentric furniture dealer from Oxford. Theophilus Carter was once a servitor at Christ Church, one of the colleges in Oxford. He later became known as the mad hatter due to his habit of standing in front of the furniture shop wearing a top hat. It is also rumored that illustrator, John Tenniel, ventured all the way to Oxford just to sketch him


In the chapter, “The Mad Tea Party,” The Hatter often asks a riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” When Alice finally gives up the Hatter answers, “I haven’t the slightest idea.” Lewis Carroll initially never intended there to be an answer to the riddle. After many requests from readers, Lewis Carroll replied,

“Inquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether

any answer to the Hatter's riddle can be imagined, that I may

as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly

appropriate answer, "because it can produce a few notes, though

they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!"

This, however, is merely an afterthought; the riddle as originally

invented had no answer at all."

The Hatter has appeared many different universes including Disney, DC comics, film, TV and other media. The Hatter has also been portrayed by many different people, including, Sebastian Stan (Once Upon A Time), Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland), Ed Wynn (Alice in Wonderland), Steven Tyler (Wonder Pets), Andre Lee-Potts (Alice) and Martin Short (Alice in Wonderland) and many more throughout the years.

Edited By: Ryder Lazo

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