The Mad Tea Party by Milo Winter (1888-1956)
Mad Hatter Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
~ A Mad Tea Party, Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865
Mad Hatter Day, October 6th, was derived from the original illustrations of the Hatter (with its hanging price tag "10/6" translating from 10 shillings 6 pence to this date in the month/day format) from Lewis Carroll's classic fantasy story, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The expression, "mad as a hatter," a term which predates Carroll's stories, lives on in the terms "Mad hatter disease," or "mad hatter syndrome," which describe occupational chronic mercury poisoning symptoms common amongst hat makers whose felting work involved prolonged exposure to mercury vapors. The characteristic neurotoxic effects included tremor, pathological shyness, and irritability (and perhaps unanswerable riddles ;-)
The Mad Hatter
Mad Hatter Day, October 6th, gets its designated date from the price tag "10/6" (translating to October 6th in the month/day format) on the illustrations of the Hatter's hat from Lewis Carroll's fantasy story, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The Hatter wears a large top hat with a hatband reading "In this style 10/6". This is the hat's price tag, indicative of his trade, in pre-decimal British money as ten shillings and six pence (or half a guinea).
The Hatter character, alongside all the other fictional beings, first appears in Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In the story, the Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are continually stuck at tea time because when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts, the foul-tempered monarch sentenced him to death for "murdering the time." Although he escapes decapitation, "time" in a show of solidarity (and referred to as a "he" in the novel) halts himself out of respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 pm, tea time, forever.
It has often been claimed that the Hatter's character may have been inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer and a one time a servitor at Christ Church College, at Oxford. He was nicknamed the "Mad Hatter" from his habit of standing in the door of his shop wearing a top hat.
The expression, "mad as a hatter," a term which predates Carroll's stories, lives on in the terms "Mad hatter disease," or "mad hatter syndrome," which describe occupational chronic mercury poisoning common amongst hat makers whose felting work involved prolonged exposure to mercury vapors. The characteristic neurotoxic effects included tremor, pathological shyness, and irritability.
For a recipe worthy of a mad person, try a "Mad Hatter" cocktail with equal parts potion of vodka, peach schnapps, lemonade, and coca-cola.
Or try an Alice-approved 'Drink Me' potion with almost all the named ingredients from the story by clicking the picture of the Hatter at his perpetual tea by John Tenniel:
"…so Alice ventured to taste it, and, finding it very nice (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast), she very soon finished it off.”
~Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll