Rebel Brew: What The Boston Tea Party And The Mad Hatter Had In Common


Minnie Phan for NPR

Minnie Phan for NPR

This week marks the 242nd anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. On the surface, these two events seem to have very little in common. But if you’ll follow us down the rabbit hole for a bit, you’ll find some surprising links.

On Dec. 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty in Boston, disguised as Mohawks, stole aboard three British ships and tipped 342 chests of good East India Co. tea into the harbor to protest England’s unjust taxation policy. This dumping of tea leaves was the spark that accelerated the Revolutionary War, culminating in the rout of the redcoats and the triumph of red, white and blue.

The Mad Hatter’s tea party has more idyllic roots. On a “golden afternoon” in 1862, a shy, young mathematics don named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson took the three daughters of his college dean on a boating expedition. Having rowed them up the river Isis, Dodgson, accompanied by fellow Oxford don Richard Duckworth, and the three Liddle girls (one of whom was Alice), disembarked at Godstow and took tea near a haystack. Dodgson entertained his young companions with a story of how an inquisitive and bossy but very l…

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