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Philadelphia's Founding, Importance & Fun Facts

Andrew Roberts, Andrew Peterson
  • Author
    Andrew Roberts

    Andrew Roberts is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where they earned a bachelor's in journalism. They have spent the past two years working as a freelance journalist, as well as a substitute teacher in Houston.

  • Instructor
    Andrew Peterson

    Andrew has a PhD and masters degree in world history.

Learn when and by whom Philadelphia was founded. Find out why Philadelphia was important in Colonial America and explore fun facts about the City of Brotherly Love. Updated: 01/14/2022

Table of Contents


Founding of Philadelphia

Philadelphia, or the "City of Brotherly Love" (a nickname based on the literal translation of its name), is the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, and it has a rich history that dates back all the way to Colonial America. The city was home to many of the famous free thinkers of the American Revolution and played a massive role in the foundation of the United States.

Situated between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, and neighboring other prosperous colonies like New York, New Jersey and Maryland, Philadelphia was the ideal land for its native inhabitants and for a British colony. With a temperate climate and only moderate winters, Philadelphia was an ideal place for any native or colonist to thrive in the 1600s and 1700s.

Here we will learn facts about the founding and history of Philadelphia, its role in the foundation of the American Revolution and fun facts about the city today.

When Was Philadelphia Founded?

The founding of Philadelphia goes back thousands of years, as records show the Native American tribe, the Lenape, settling in the area as far back as 8000 BCE. But the Philadelphia we know today has its roots starting in the early 1600s, when Dutch and Swedish merchants established small settlements and trading posts in the Delaware Valley area.

The area continued to be run the Dutch under the colonial authority of New Netherland until the 1660s, when England captured the colony and officially marked it as an English colony.

Who Founded Philadelphia

William Penn

Engraving of William Penn from the 18th century

The founder of modern Philadelphia was William Penn, an established English colonist and Quaker pacifist. Penn founded the city in 1682 as part of his larger American colony that would eventually become known as Pennsylvania. Penn was granted the colony from King Charles II of England, who provided him with the land as a means to settle debts he owed to Penn's family.

Soon after arriving to his new city, Penn would establish an environment of tolerance and peace. He would sign peace treaties and trade agreements with local Native Americans, famously embodied in his friendship with Lenape chief Tammany. He would also establish a democratic government called the Pennsylvania State House, which would later be known as Independence Hall.

Penn saw this as not only an opportunity to run his own colony in America, but also as a means to escape religious persecution he faced in England. He envisioned his colony as a place where all people could worship freely and live together, regardless of their religion. Philadelphia and the larger colony of Pennsylvania were built to be a prosperous and peaceful society built around the Quaker faith. Early life in the city was said to be an ideal one, with wide streets and a mixture of both urban and rural areas. Life in the new city was also very prosperous for merchants, as Philadelphia was a key trading port among the Middle Colonies. Its location by the Delaware River allowed for easy trade between other colonies like New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

The city quickly thrived, and by the 1700s, it became the biggest shipbuilding and trade center in all of Colonial America. By the 1770s, the city's population had grown to nearly 30,000 people, and it was the third most important center of business for the British Empire, behind Liverpool and London. It would also attract many people who would become famous, including Benjamin Franklin, who worked as publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why was Philadelphia important in the 1700s?

Philadelphia was important in the 1700s because it was the city where the founding fathers worked for American Independence; it also acted as the country's capital for a time.

What is Philadelphia famous for?

Philadelphia is famous not only for being the cradle of the American Revolution, but also for being home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the "Rocky Steps" of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Philly cheesesteak.

When was Philadelphia founded and by whom?

The city of Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by English Quaker William Penn as part of his larger colony of Pennsylvania.

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