Philadelphia: History & Facts

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Protectorate: Definition & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Founding & Early History
  • 1:03 In the American Revolution
  • 2:17 1800s to Present
  • 3:33 Culture, Architecture…
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Peterson

Andrew has a PhD and masters degree in world history.

One could argue that Philadelphia was the single most important city in early American history. Not only was Philadelphia a key center of the American Revolution but it also served as the capital of the United States of America for a brief time.

Founding of Philadelphia and Early History

William Penn, an English colonist and Quaker, founded Philadelphia in 1682. The city of Philadelphia was established as part of William Penn's larger American colony that eventually came to be called Pennsylvania. King Charles II of England granted William Penn the land to found his own colony in order to settle debts he owed the Penn family.

Penn used his new lands in America as a means to escape religious persecution in England. Moreover, Penn had plans to found a peaceful and prosperous society in the New World, a society built around the Quaker faith. Philadelphia (meaning 'The City of Brotherly Love') was intended to be an ideal city of harmony and peace. There were to be wide streets with an even mixture of urban buildings and farms. Additionally, there was to be a democratic government and peaceful treaties with the neighboring Native Americans.

But Philadelphia was not all about peace and religion, the city was also intended to be a prosperous trade center. Sitting at the junction of two major rivers, The Delaware River and the Schuylkill River, Philadelphia quickly grew in its role as a trading hub and center of commerce.

Philadelphia in the American Revolution

By the mid to late 1700s, the city of Philadelphia had become the leading commercial and cultural center of colonial American life. Philadelphia boasted the busiest ports and the largest population of the American colonies. More importantly, Philadelphia became a center of revolutionary thought and activity.

During the Revolutionary War, which ran from 1775-1783, Philadelphia became a meeting place for the nation's founding fathers, including one of the city's most famous residents, Benjamin Franklin. Philadelphia hosted the Continental Congress, a meeting wherein representatives of the original thirteen colonies debated how to win independence from England and form a new nation, in 1787. Most famously, the second meeting of the continental congress passed Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Following the Declaration of Independence, the thirteen American colonies, including Pennsylvania, entered into open war with England. After the American victory over England, Philadelphia was seen as the natural site to be the capital of the United States of America, so from 1790-1800 Philadelphia served as the capitol of the newly created United States. Both presidents George Washington and John Adams served their terms in the city.

The Growth of Philadelphia: 1800s to Present

Over time, the importance of Philadelphia was displaced as other cities and urban centers throughout the eastern United States grew and developed. By the mid 1800s, cites like New York, Boston, and Baltimore had grown to rival and even surpass Philadelphia in terms of population.

Later, following decades of Western expansion in the 1800s and 1900s, cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco became major population centers and commercial powerhouses in their own right. Nevertheless, despite the rise of these other urban areas, Philadelphia has ranked in the top five largest cities in the U.S. for its entire history.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support