A History of Philadelphia, Over 325 Years, Is A Fascinating Journey Through Time

The history of Philadelphia isn't just about the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Betsy Ross. The abundant Philadelphia tourist attractions are even more enjoyable, when you know the historical context of Philadelphia, the city that treasures all of these important historic sites.

Please pardon the appearance of this page, as it is still under construction.

A History of Philadelphia - The Beginnings - 1600s

1682 - William Penn founds the proprietary colony of Pennsylvania.

April 1775 - First shots are fired in American Revolution, at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.

July 4, 1776 - The Second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence.

December 1776 - George Washington keeps the flickering American cause alive by defeating Hessian mercenaries at Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey.

September 11, 1777 - British General Sir William Howe defeats Washington's Continental Army at Brandywine, making the capture of Philadelphia - the American capital - inevitable.

Fall 1777 - Spring 1778 - British occupy Philadelphia.

1778 - When word of the alliance with France reaches Britain, Howe is ordered to evacuate Philadelphia in order to protect the British Empire's other, presumably more valuable possessions worldwide. Philadelphia is liberated, and remains in American hands for the remainder of the war. Benedict Arnold - yes, seriously - becomes the de facto dictator of Philadelphia.

October 1781 - In the last major battle of the war, Washington and French General Rochambeau trap and capture Lord Cornwallis's Royal Army at Yorktown, Virginia. This guarantees American independence.

May - September 1777 - The "Federal Convention" meets in Philadelphia, to discuss revision of the Articles of Confederation.

September 17, 1787 - The final draft of the new U.S. Constitution is adopted, and submitted for ratification by the 13 states - nine must approve it for it to go into effect.

1790 - After a brief hiatus in New York City, Philadelphia once more becomes the nation's capital, a status it holds for decade, while the new Federal City - Washington, DC - is constructed on the Potomac River, on the border between Maryland and Virginia.

1793 - A yellow fever epidemic strikes, with tragic consequences for Philadelphians.

March 1797 - John Adams becomes the first U.S. President to be inaugurated in Philadelphia.

1800 - The capital shifts from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.

1860 - Abraham Lincoln elected President, and the Civil War ensues.

1862 - Philadelphia Union League is founded to support the Union cause.


Some additional timeline dates:

(Note: The archaic spellings have been left in; they're not typos.)

1665-66 - Two calamities befall London, England - the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed much of the city. These disasters influence the eventual decision by William Penn, less than two decades later, to create a city, where similar risks of pestilence and flame would be greatly reduced. He promotes "a greene Country Towne, which will never be burnt, and allways be wholesome."

1700 - Philadelphia's population reaches 2,000, up from the several hundred at its founding.

1701 - Penn proclaims a Charter of Liberties for the City - the original source for the Liberty Bell. Penn leaves Philadelphia for England, and does not return.

1782 - After the Yorktown victory decisively ends the war, the peace negotiations between Great Britain, France and the fledgling United States take place. Despite the ravages of war, Philadelphia's population is estimated as 38,978.

1790 - One of the provisions of the new Constitution is the decennial census. The first federal census estimates that in the ensuing eight years, Philadelphia's population has increased to 42,500.

August 1824 - The Marquis de Lafayette - the French aristocratic officer, who as a teenager, had risked his life and spent much of his fortune to support the American cause - returns to America for a rock-star-style tour. His visit to Philadelphia - as the last major survivor of the Revolutionary Era - revives interest in the city's history, and helps ensure that Independence Hall would not be demolished. The Pennsylvania Historical Society is formed, as a direct result of his visit.


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