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Philadelphia History, Pennsylvania

When the Europeans arrived in what is today Philadelphia, PA in the early 1600’s, the area was inhabited by a group of Delaware Indians known as the Shackamaxons.  The first European settlers to settle in the area were British, Swedish, and Dutch.  The Swedish settlers built their economy based on agriculture, mostly tobacco, and the fur-trade.  This gave them an edge over the other settlements whose economies were based mostly on trade.

Many of the Swedish and Dutch settlements that made up the area at the time were included in New Netherland province.  This province was mostly autonomous from the other colonies.  They had their own lands, religion, and political systems.  This lasted until around 1664 when the British defeated New Netherland.

In 1682, the area was added to the Pennsylvania charter.  Charles II of England repaid a debt owed to William Penn by offering him the charter which would come to be known as the Pennsylvania colony.  In order to ensure peace and good relations with their neighbors, Penn also purchased the area from the local Delaware Indian tribe.  According to legend, this purchase went hand-in-hand with a pact of friendship with the tribe.

One of the most important things that Penn planned in the early days of the colony was a city along the Delaware River that would act as a port and political center.  He named the city Philadelphia which means “brotherly love” in Greek.  The city’s name was representative of Penn’s Quaker background.  Since he had suffered persecution because of his religion, he hoped to build a colony where people could worship freely. 

Penn had hoped that the city would remain small with gardens and orchards between the homes and businesses.  Despite his plans, however, settlers subdivided and sold their lots causing homes to be crowded along the Delaware River.  Philadelphia was made an official city in 1701 and would soon become an important trade center.

At first, the living conditions within the city were quite poor.  By the 1750’s, however, men like Benjamin Franklin had taken to improving the city and the services offered there.  It was around this time that Philadelphia became the home of the first hospital in the American colonies.

Since Philadelphia was centrally located within the colonies, the city played a significant role during the American Revolution and many battles were fought in and around the city.  The First and Second Continental Congresses were held there, as was the Constitutional Convention.  The United States Declaration of Independence was also signed in Philadelphia.  The city was one of the top candidates for the United States capital, but this title went to Washington, DC instead.  Philadelphia did, however, serve as a temporary capital city during the 1790’s while the state buildings in Washington, DC were under construction.

Philadelphia also played a significant role in the early building-up of the United States.  For some time, it was the largest city in the U.S. as well as a center for culture and finance.  It was also the first industrialized city in the country.

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Read our members' reviews about Philadelphia

  • mohds2One night in Philadelphia
    review by mohds2 posted more then 30 days ago
    The historical town of Philadelphia is a famous place where you can visit the most ancient but affluent sites. For those looking for comfortable housing, Philly, as it’s widely called, provides an option among the top hotels. Varying from famous hotel shackles to individual hotels,...
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Read our members' travel tips about Philadelphia

  • AnonymousPhiladelphia Brewing Co.
    travel tip by Anonymous posted more then 30 days ago
    Tour this historic brewery every Saturday from noon - 3pm. Beer tastings are also available during the tour. Tours are very good and informative. This is the only production only brewery in the City - not a brewpub/restaurant.
  • blackangel_66The Independence Hall of Pennsylvania
    travel tip by blackangel_66 posted more then 30 days ago
    A historical landmark, the Independence Hall is a building to see. It has been an important location for US citizens, being the place where the Declaration of Independence has been signed and where the Constitution of the United States...
  • ElzaThe Betsy Ross House
    travel tip by Elza posted more then 30 days ago
    Betsy Ross is a true American icon, because according to its descendants, she was the one who sew the first national flag of the United States. The oral history states that George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross visited Betsy...
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Philadelphia City Ratings

  • Rating94%
    City Rank51
  • History & Culture: rated for 90%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 90%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 100%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 100%
  • Food: rated for 100%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 100%
  • Shopping: rated for 100%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 70%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 100%
Philadelphia is one of the "must visit" tourist destinations in the world. This rank is based on what other travelers shared about their experiences in Philadelphia
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