Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland (fretwork figure)

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index
Exhibit

Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland (fretwork figure)

BTMM map 058.gif
location:
Arch Two , Area 58
Wooden Cutout Figures (display)

A jointed wooden figure of The Mad Hatter from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", by Lewis Carroll

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The figure was created in Lord Robert's Workshops, and is jointed to have moving arms and legs.

About the character

While the phrase "mad as a hatter" pre-dates Carroll's work, and the Cheshire Cat refers to both The Hatter and March Hare as "both mad", the name 'Mad Hatter' never appears in the actual text.

The character appears in the Tea Party scene. It is claimed that previously the Queen of Hearts sentenced him to death for "killing time" but he managed to escape, and out of respect for him, Time itself stopped for him so that he is caught in a never-changing 6:00pm ... always teatime.

There are many arguments about the actual intent/presentation of the character with a lot of people claiming that logically he must be a representation of the mental ill-effects of mercury poisoning on hatmakers, although this is contradicted by pointing out that he evidenced none of the neurological symptoms of the poisoning. It is generally suggested he was based on one Theophilus Carter, an Oxford-based furniture dealer and inventor who was known as "the mad hatter" for standing in the doorway of his shop wearing a top hat. Carroll's illustrator Tenniel was said to have travelled to Oxford specifically to sketch him as a basis for illustrations of the character.