The Iguanodon Banquet
December 31, 1853 - It was on this night that Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins held a New Year's Eve banquet inside the mold of one of his massive sculptures called the Iguanodon.
The 20-person party crowded inside the creature to eat, drink and celebrate the New Year. By all accounts it was a lively event.
“...a party of other gentlemen, numbering altogether 21, had an exceedingly good dinner, the other day, in the interior of the Iguanodon modelled at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. We congratulate the company on the era in which they live; for it it had been an early geological period, they might perhaps have occupied the Iguanodon’s inside without having any dinner there.” - Punch (1854 volume 26 page 24)
Hawkins created the Iguanodon with the scientific guidance of Sir Richard Owen, a brilliant and controversial paleontologist. Hawkins also relied on a healthy dose of his own imagination. It was one of over 30 concrete sculptures that Hawkins constructed for the Great Exhibition of 1851. These were the first dinosaur sculptures ever created and they represent a significant step toward opening the public's eyes to prehistoric and extinct creatures.
This exhibition was unveiled at least 6 years before Darwin published On the Origin of the Species.
Many of the sculptures created by Hawkins, including the Iguanodon, are still on display in London's Crystal Palace Park.