Spotlight on Wonderland: The Cheshire Cat

Cheshire Cat
Here kitty, kitty, kitty…wait, where’d he go?? In typical feline fashion, the Cheshire Cat is a cunning and intelligent provocateur who disappears at the blink of an eye, and by all accounts, is completely mad.

As evidence, just see how it toys with the Queen of Hearts when she calls for its head at the croquet game. After upsetting the King with its nonchalant attitude,  it slowly vanishes, leaving the dimwitted royalty and executioner to ponder whether a body without a head can be beheaded at all.

As far as Alice’s Wonderland acquaintances go, the Cheshire Cat is the one characters she enjoys spending time with, introducing to it to the King as as her “friend.” Alice makes no secret of her fondness for cats (much to the dismay of the Mouse), and she looks to the Cheshire Cat for much needed advice and conversation.


First seen curled up and “grinning from ear to ear” in the Duchess’ kitchen, Alice learns the Cheshire Cat is the pet of  the tempestuous Duchess. Yet, it displays none of her ill manners or outbursts. Rather, this mysterious creature seems to greet all events and persons with equal nonchalance and bemusement.


The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good- natured, she thought: still it had VERY long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider.

Philosophical and vague, the Cheshire Cat fits right in with curious cast of Wonderland characters. When first meeting Alice, it tries to explain to her that everyone in Wonderland is inherently mad, even Alice herself. Is the  Cheshire cat talking nonsense? Or is it trying to provide meaning to an irrational world? Quite the profound metaphysical musings for an grinning cat.

What do you think of the Cheshire Cat? Is it a philosopher, friendly guide, patronizing provocateur, or just another mad Wonderland resident?

Did you Know:

The phrase “grinning like a Cheshire cat” pre-dates Lewis Carroll’s tale. There are many suggested origins. One popular story notes that the cats in Cheshire, England, an area dominated by dairy farming, would grin from the abundance of cream.

The “Cheshire Cat effect” is a scientific phenomena that describes why a stationary object seen by one eye disappears when the other eye focuses on a moving object.

Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to explore the Cheshire Cat and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speech to AFL-CIO

In 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and leader of the civil rights movement, spoke at the AFL-CIO’s Fourth Constitutional Convention. Though the early labor movement had a complicated history with race relations, by the 1960s the AFL-CIO and the civil rights movement had fully embraced each other in solidarity. President George Meany introduced King as “a courageous fighter for human rights” and “a fine example of American citizenry.”


In his speech, King commented on the similarities between the labor movement and the civil rights movement:

“Negroes in the United States read this history of labor and find it mirrors their own experience. We are confronted by powerful forces telling us to rely on the good will and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us.”

“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs, decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

Dr. King also drew attention to the need for solidarity between the two movements: “The duality of interests of labor and Negroes makes any crisis which lacerates you, a crisis from which we bleed.”

King asked two things of the AFL-CIO in his speech: root out racial discrimination in labor unions and provide financial assistance to the civil rights movement. King’s message did not fall on deaf ears: he received a standing ovation from the delegates.

Read Dr. King’s full speech online

Watch a clip from Dr. King’s speech (starts at 15:33)

Read more about the labor movement’s relationship with the civil rights movement

Alice 150 Featured Item of the Month: December

Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz, an exhibit highlighting the timelessness of Alice in Wonderland and the life and work of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), will showcase a new Alice related item every month.

In December, visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view a collection of vintage Christmas cards inspired by the art and characters of Alice in Wonderland and other works by Lewis Carroll, including his 1867 poem “Christmas Greetings (From a Fairy to a Child).”

View all the featured items of the month from Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll  online.

Curator Pick: Favorite Item from the Alice 150 Exhibit

Okama’s Alice in Wonderland manga brings back fond memories of sitting cross-legged in the Borders stacks with a pile of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura books by my side. I would have been instantly captured by the cover, counting my money, and fretting over which book to put back so I could add Okama’s to my bookshelf.

Alice is falling down the well.

Looking through this manga version of Alice is like receiving a double shot of nostalgia. Two fond parts of my childhood make up every panel from wishing to see the wonders of Wonderland to wishing to be as fashionable and cute as the manga characters I adored.

Alice is sitting at the table with the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse. Tea cups are everywhere and the table nearly extends off the page.

Okama draws his characters with exaggerated features. Their clothing is highly detailed as are the scene settings with their patterns and striped elements. The most impressive garb, as is befitting their station, belong to the King and Queen of Hearts. Their stylized appearance is based on the traditional card deck royalty and their fashions.Alice is surrounded by the Queen of Hearts' subjects. The queen is pointing at Alice accusingly as four cards lay prostrate before her.Alice is staring up at the Chesire Cat who is smiling down at her from a tree.

My only wish is that I knew how to read Kanji so that I could further enjoy Okama’s work!

Visit the Alice 150 and Counting exhibit in Hornbake Library to view more international editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or explore our online exhibit.

Sabrina Reed is an intern for Hornbake Library-Special Collection’s ‘Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll’ exhibit. As a graduate student in the University of Maryland’s iSchool, her areas of focus are youth media, diversity, and digital literacy. Sabrina is also an alumna of the university’s undergraduate English program. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing.

Trick or Treat from Alice!


Trick or Treat, watch your feet,

beware any rabbits that you meet, 

If you don’t, best beware,

you might end up in the Jabberwock’s lair!

Here’s our treat (with maybe a few tricks thrown in) from our Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit!

Some of the Lewis Carroll books in our exhibit have some frightful illustrations, here are a few of our favorites:

While almost every image of the Cheshire Cat’s grin is unnerving, here’s some that really gave us the chills:

And perhaps the scariest of them all…the Jabberwocky!alice-module2-throughthelookingglass1984Tenniel_11

Hungry for more?


Our exhibit is now open to the public in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland!

Callooh, Callay! We’re Celebrating Alice’s Birthday!

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Don’t be late to our opening reception!

When: Tonight! 5 – 7 pm

Where: Hornbake Library, University of Maryland

Come help us celebrate our exhibit: Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

Read more or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram@HornbakeLibrary #AliceUMD #Alice150 #Terps #AliceinWonderland

Chronicling America surpasses 10 million pages!


The University of Maryland Libraries joins the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities in celebrating a major milestone for Chronicling America, a free, searchable database of historic U.S. newspapers. The Library of Congress announced on October 7 that more than 10 million pages have been posted to the site. This number includes 117,082 pages of Maryland newspapers digitized by the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and its content partners, the Maryland State Archives and Maryland Historical Society, from the following titles:

Titles are added on a rolling basis, so check back often, or subscribe to Chronicling America’s RSS feed to receive alerts when new titles…

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