A Brief History of Mad Hatter Day

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

This Sunday is Mad Hatter Day. It’s a real thing, I swear! And, in true Hatter fashion, we celebrate the numbers sticking out of the character’s topper (“In this style 10/6”) not as the order to make a hat in that particular style that costs ten shillings sixpence but as a day: October 6th—the perfect way to celebrate mix-ups and silliness with a little bit of an un-birthday.

The iconic John Tenniel sketch (above) from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was what started this all. An illustrator, graphic humorist, and political cartoonist, Tenniel drew ninety-two drawings for the Wonderland series. All 2,000 copies of the original print run of the book were shelved because Tenniel objected to the publication’s print quality. A new edition was released in England in December 1865 and became an instant best-seller. And what happened to those 2,000 shunned books? They were resold in America, where apparently we weren’t so choosy about the fineness and fidelity of our lines.

But the Official Day (Sunday) didn’t come around until 1986. A group of computer technicians in Boulder, Colorado celebrated the first Mad Hatter Day, indicating that Tenniel’s “In this style 10/6” is a set of instructions to act in the style of the Mad Hatter on October 6th. They designated the holiday as a day of general silliness, a much-needed break in the calendar between April Fools Days. The holiday garnered national attention in 1988 when the celebrations attracted national press coverage.

(image via flickr)

Now go out and have a cup of tea, wear a silly hat, and bake cupcakes that bear the message “Eat Me.” Come up with your own response to the Mad Hatter’s unanswered riddle: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” But most of all, be sure to be ridiculous without apology.