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March 8, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Pennsylvania’s largest city is known as the home of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the “Rocky” statue.

Philadelphia, a city in Pennsylvania whose name means City of Brotherly Love, was originally settled by Native American tribes, particularly the Lenape hunter gatherers, around 8000 B.C.

By the early 1600s, Dutch, English and Swedish merchants had established trading posts in the Delaware Valley area, and in 1681, Charles II of England granted a charter to William Penn for what would become the Pennsylvania colony.

Penn arrived in the new city of Philadelphia in 1682. A Quaker pacifist, Penn signed a peace treaty with Lenape chief Tamanend, establishing a tradition of tolerance and human rights.

But in 1684, the ship Isabella landed in Philadelphia carrying hundreds of enslaved Africans. Tensions over slavery, especially among local Quakers, resulted in the 1688 Germantown Petition Against Slavery, the first organized protest against slavery in the New World.

Penn’s colony thrived, and soon Philadelphia was the biggest shipbuilding center in the colonies. Among those attracted to the city was Benjamin Franklin, who in 1729, became the publisher of The Pennsylvania Gazette.

The Eventful Life of Benjamin Franklin (TV-14; 2:51)

The Pennsylvania State House—later known as Independence Hall—held its first Assembly meeting there in 1735. State representatives ordered a large bell for the building in 1751 with a Biblical inscription: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

British Parliament passed a series of tax acts on the colonies in the 1760s, including the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts, sparking colonial outrage. In response, the Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in 1774.

After Philadelphia resident Thomas Paine‘s pamphlet Common Sense met with widespread acclaim, the stage was set to formally declare independence, which the Founding Fathers did on July 4, 1776. Philadelphians were the first to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud in the State House yard.

The Founding Fathers Debate and Devise the Declaration of Independence (TV-PG; 2:37)

In 1790, after the Revolutionary War (during which the city witnessed the Battle of Germantown), Philadelphia served as capital of the United States. By that time, it was the new nation’s biggest city, with 44,096 residents. The First Bank of the United States and the first U.S. Mint were founded in Philadelphia, and the U.S. …read more


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