University City: Clark Park Celebrates the 200th Birthday of Charles Dickens

The statue of Charles Dickens in Clark Park is one of only two in the world
The statue of Charles Dickens in Clark Park is one of only two in the world.

This year marked Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday, which made the annual celebration at Clark Park extra special.

Residents near Clark Park have celebrated the famed author’s birthday since at least 1974 and went all out this year to mark the bicentennial.

Passages from Dickens’s famous books A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield and Pickwick Papers were read aloud, and Victorian foods such as trifle and spice cake were enjoyed by young and old alike. After the readings, residents sang happy birthday to Dickens’s statue and were treated to a music and dance performance by the Kingsessing Morris Men.

“It’s a day of fun, delight, education and entertainment,” Friends of Clark Park Committee Chair Tony West said.

Emcee Frank Chance read aloud a passage from David Copperfield.

Clark Park is home to one of only two statues of Charles Dickens in the entire world; the other is located in Sydney, Australia. The statue was created in New York City in the 1890s by sculptor Francis Edwin Elwell, who intended to send the bronze piece to England upon its completion.

“A codicil existed in Dickens’s will though, which forbade the making of a monument or statue in his likeness,” West said. Dickens had preferred to be remembered through his books.

As a result, the statue ended up in Philadelphia, where Clarence Clark decided to place it in a new park that he had donated land to. The statue has stayed in the northeast corner of the park ever since.

The birthday was hosted by Friends of Clark Park and the Dickens Foundation, which use the collected funds to help with the yearly upkeep of the statue and the park grounds around it.

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