Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Nineteenth Century after 1854

Model of a horizontal steam engine.Model of a horizontal steam engine, c. 1880, represents Philadelphia’s manufacturing prowess in the late nineteenth century. (Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, gift of A. Atwater Kent, Photograph by Sara Hawken)

The nation celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1876 in Philadelphia with the Centennial Exhibition, the first full-scale world’s fair held in the United States. As the exhibits in Fairmount Park demonstrated, the cause for celebration was not primarily history but industrial progress. In the decades after the Civil War, large-scale industrialization and new waves of immigration produced massive growth in Philadelphia, Camden, and other cities in the region. The region’s major industries included textiles, locomotive manufacturing, shipbuilding, iron and steel production, and sugar refining. With the discovery of petroleum in western Pennsylvania, Philadelphia became an oil storage and refining center.

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Away from the noise, pollution, and congestion of industry, new suburban neighborhoods developed along the routes of streetcars and commuter rail lines. Streetcars, introduced in 1858, allowed middle class families to move to streetcar suburbs in West and lower North Philadelphia and in Camden County. Electrification in 1892 further extended the range for commuting. Skilled workers also commuted by ferry from new housing developments in Camden, such as Cramer Hill, to Philadelphia industries. Meanwhile, commuter railroads opened up suburban enclaves for the wealthy west of Philadelphia along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, in Chestnut Hill, and in Camden County, New Jersey, communities such as Merchantville and Collingswood. The railroads and streetcars also provided suburban dwellers with access to thriving central business districts anchored by rail stations, department stores, and concert halls.

As many of the wealthy and middle class left older neighborhoods, new generations of immigrants populated alleys and courts crowded with the region’s oldest housing stock. By the 1890s, slum conditions attracted the attention of reformers who followed British examples to create settlement houses and public bath houses to address the needs of the urban poor.

Topics: Nineteenth Century after 1854

Gallery: Nineteenth Century after 1854

Centennial Exhibition
Centennial Exhibition

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Centennial Exhibition).

Horse Ambulance
Horse Ambulance

PSCPA.org (Explore in Animal Protection).

Offenbach’s Garden
Offenbach’s Garden

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Broad Street).

W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois

Library of Congress (Explore in The Philadelphia Negro).

Colossal Hand and Torch of Lady Liberty
Colossal Hand and Torch of Lady Liberty

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Centennial Exhibition).

Penn Square,1871
Penn Square,1871

PhillyHistory.Org (Explore in City Hall).

Uriah Stephens
Uriah Stephens

Library of Congress (Explore in Knights of Labor).

The Great Central Fair, 1864
The Great Central Fair, 1864

Library of Congress (Explore in Civil War Sanitary Fairs).

Reading Terminal
Reading Terminal

Library of Congress (Explore in Public Transportation).

Roman Catholic High School
Roman Catholic High School

Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center (Explore in Roman Catholic Education).

First Electric Trolley
First Electric Trolley

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Streetcars).

Philadelphia Bulletin Building
Philadelphia Bulletin Building

Library of Congress (Explore in Printing and Publishing (to 1950) ).

Timeline: Nineteenth Century after 1854

1854: In first Philadelphia election after Act of Consolidation, candidates of anti-immigrant American Party prevail; they create shrine to Founding Fathers in Independence Hall (1855).

1856: First Republican National Convention is held in Philadelphia’s Musical Fund Hall.

September 25, 1857: Bank of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia suspends specie payment, contributing to a nationwide financial panic.

1858: The Schuylkill Navy, organization for Philadelphia’s amateur rowing clubs, is formed.  Construction of permanent boathouses begins.

1858: Horse-drawn streetcars begin operation (shown here), allowing middle-class families to move to new suburbs in West and lower North Philadelphia. Streetcar neighborhoods also develop in Camden County.

Image credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

Summer 1858: William Parker Foulke uncovers the first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton while vacationing in Haddonfield, New Jersey.

1860s: Philadelphia builds its first floating public baths in the Schuylkill River, south of the Fairmount Water Works.

1860s-80s: Railroad suburbs for the wealthy develop along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad as well as in Chestnut Hill (1880s-1920) and Camden County, N.J. (Merchantville, 1860s; Collingswood, 1880s).

1861: U.S. Civil War begins. Although divided by opinions toward slavery, region rallies to the Union cause; industries supply uniforms, weapons, and warships (Merrick and Sons advertisement, 1863, shown here). Camden and Philadelphia serve as transit points for soldiers.

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

June 17, 1862: Philadelphia City Council purchases League Island, presents it to U.S. as naval station for construction of ironclads.

March 18, 1863: New Jersey Legislature criticizes the Civil War in its Peace Resolutions.

June 26, 1863-August 14, 1865: African American soldiers train at Camp William Penn (shown here).

June 7-28, 1864: Great Central Fair in Logan Square raises funds for Union troops.

December 6, 1865: With ratification of Thirteenth Amendment, slavery ends in Delaware.

1867: Philadelphia streetcars desegregated.

1867: Pennsylvania becomes second state to form a chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. New Jersey’s chapter forms in 1868, and Delaware’s in 1873.

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

1867: The Fairmount Park Commission is formed for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the Schuylkill water supply.

1868: Justus Clayton Strawbridge and  Isaac Hallowell Clothier open a dry goods store in Philadelphia. Strawbridge & Clothier becomes one of the city’s main department stores.

1869: Joseph Campbell and Abram Anderson found Anderson & Campbell Preserve Company in Camden, New Jersey.

December 9, 1869: Uriah Stephens (shown here) and eight others form the Knights of Labor.

1870: In first elections after passage of Fifteenth Amendment, federal troops sent to Philadelphia and National Guard to Camden to protect African Americans attempting to vote. In Delaware, blacks prevented from voting despite presence of federal marshals.

Image credit: Library of Congress

1870s: Origins of Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

1871: The Pennsylvania Railroad leases the Camden & Amboy, creating confederation of rail lines connecting Philadelphia and Camden with Jersey City and the Hudson River Crossing and South Amboy and lower New York Bay.

1871: Construction begins on new Philadelphia City Hall after voters choose Center Square site over Washington Square. It will take thirty years and nearly $25 million to finish the building.

October 10, 1871: Civil rights leader Octavius Catto (shown here) killed in election day violence.

1871: John Wanamaker’s men’s clothing store is the largest such retailer in the country.

1872: William Still publishes The Underground Railroad, which chronicles the lives of formerly enslaved African Americans.

Image credit: Library of Congress

September 1873: Jay Cooke & Company fails, contributing to a financial panic and a nearly six-year economic depression.

1873: Walt Whitman moves to Camden, New Jersey.

July 1, 1874: The first zoo in the United States opens in Philadelphia.

May 10, 1876: The Centennial Exhibition opens in Fairmount Park (arm of Statue of Liberty on display, shown here). Nearly ten million admission tickets are sold before the fair closes on November 10, 1876.

July 4, 1876: Susan B. Anthony and other women’s rights activists deliver the Declaration of Rights of Women outside Independence Hall.

Image credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

1877: John Wanamaker opens the Grand Depot department store (shown here in 1899).

1880s: New immigration surge begins from southern and eastern Europe; Jewish immigrants flee Russian pogroms, beginning 1882.

1883: First Phillies baseball game.

1884: Christopher James Perry Jr. begins publishing African American newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune.

1885-1915: Liberty Bell exhibited seven times at world’s fairs and exhibitions.

September 15, 1887: For centennial of U.S. Constitution, Philadelphia holds Civic and Industrial Procession on Broad Street.

1888: Temple University chartered, evolving from Baptist Temple’s night school for working men.

Image credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

1888-96: New Jersey Incorporation Laws remove many restrictions on businesses, encouraging the monopolies. By 1901, New Jersey is home to more than 70 percent of all U.S. corporations worth more than $25 million.

1890s: Italian farmers settle near Vineland, N.J.; Jewish immigrants form agricultural colonies in Cumberland and Salem Counties.

1890: Philadelphia is home to thirteen daily newspapers. Circulation rates exceed 800,000, bolstered by numerous ethnic presses.

1891: Anthony Drexel establishes Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry.

1892-97: Public transportation expands with the electrification of streetcars (trolleys, shown here). Quickly replacing horse-drawn streetcars and cable cars, trolleys extend streetcar suburbs and connect Wilmington with Chester and Darby, Pa.

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

April 1892: St. Mary Street College Settlement, Philadelphia’s first settlement house, opens.

1893: Philadelphia constructs a single row home at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, describing it as a “model Philadelphia house.”

1894: To facilitate increased river traffic and larger ships, Smith and Windmill islands are removed from the Delaware River.

August 1896-December 1897: W.E.B. Du Bois conducts a sociological survey of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward (shown here), publishing his findings in the book The Philadelphia Negro in 1899.

1896: The Octavia Hill Association is founded to provide housing to families at a reasonable price.

1899: New York Ship is founded in Camden.

Image credit: University of Pennsylvania Archives

Map: Nineteenth Century after 1854

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