Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Philadelphia and the Nation

A photograph of the interior court of the former Wanamaker's store on Market Street, featuring the Grand Organ acquired from the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904.Interior of former Wanamaker’s store, a national model in retailing. (Library of Congress)

Philadelphia’s central role in the birth of a new nation is not to be underestimated. But the commemoration of the Declaration of Independence, the work of the Continental Congress, and the writing of the Constitution in the city have tended to overshadow the ways in which the Philadelphia region’s entire story is in many ways America’s story. The topics here explore Greater Philadelphia’s central place in an expansive American narrative.

Topics: National Connections and Impact

Gallery: National Connections and Impact

Philadelphia Contributionship Fire Mark
Philadelphia Contributionship Fire Mark

Camden County Historical Society (Explore in Insurance).

Congress Voting Independence
Congress Voting Independence

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Continental Congresses and Declaration of Independence).

Esther De Bertdt Reed
Esther De Bertdt Reed

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Ladies Association of Philadelphia).

Richard Allen
Richard Allen

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in African American Migration and Mother Bethel AME Church).

Congressional Pugilists
Congressional Pugilists

Library of Congress (Explore in Political Parties, Origins).

First Bank of the United States
First Bank of the United States

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Banking).

The Death of George Shifler
The Death of George Shifler

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Nativist Riots of 1844).

Passmore Williamson, 1855
Passmore Williamson, 1855

Library of Congress (Explore in Abolitionism).

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

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

Uriah Stephens
Uriah Stephens

Library of Congress (Explore in Knights of Labor).

Centennial Exhibition
Centennial Exhibition

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Centennial Exhibition).

A Parade of Progress, 1887
A Parade of Progress, 1887

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Constitution Commemorations).

Market Street Department Stores
Market Street Department Stores

PhillyHistory.org (Explore in Department Stores).

IWW Membership Button, 1917
IWW Membership Button, 1917
Silent No More: The Justice Bell
Silent No More: The Justice Bell

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Liberty Bell).

Byberry in 1927
Byberry in 1927

PhillyHistory.org (Explore in Byberry).

Erie National Bank Run
Erie National Bank Run

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Great Depression).

National Freedom Day
National Freedom Day

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries (Explore in National Freedom Day).

At War Aboard the USS New Jersey
At War Aboard the USS New Jersey

National Archives and Records Administration (Explore in World War II).

Demonstrators, 1966
Demonstrators, 1966

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries (Explore in Girard College).

Beth Emeth Congregation
Beth Emeth Congregation

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries (Explore in Bicentennial).

ACT UP on Broad Street
ACT UP on Broad Street

John J. Wilcox LGBT Archives of Philadelphia (Explore in AIDS and AIDS Activism).

Timeline: National Connections and Impact

American Revolution
American Revolution

1774: First Continental Congress meets in Carpenters’ Hall.

1775-81: Second Continental Congress meets in Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall); declares independence from Great Britain (1776).

1776: First Pennsylvania Constitution, most radically democratic in nation, drafted in the State House (Independence Hall).

1777: Congress drafts Articles of Confederation (ratified by states, 1781).

1780: Pennsylvania Assembly approves nation’s first gradual abolition law.

1787: U.S. Constitution drafted in the State House (Independence Hall).

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

 

Capital of the United States
Capital of the United States

1790: Philadelphia becomes Capital of the United States for a ten-year period. While meeting in the County Court House (Congress Hall), U.S. Congress passes Naturalization Acts, a Fugitive Slave Act, and the Alien and Sedition Acts.

First federal census counts 44,096 residents in the city of Philadelphia and its adjacent suburbs of Southwark and the Northern Liberties, making it the most populous urban center in the new nation.

1790s: First political parties form.

1791: First Bank of the United States founded (pictured here).

1792: U.S. Mint established.

1794: Bethel Church founded; grows by 1816 to become anchor of African Methodist Episcopal denomination.

Image credit: Library of Congress

Nineteenth Century Before 1854
Nineteenth Century Before 1854

1800-1830s: Facing competition from Baltimore and New York, Philadelphians build turnpikes, canals, and railroads to the interior and other cities.

1816: Philadelphia agrees to buy State House (Independence Hall, shown here in 1815) from state of Pennsylvania, saving block from being developed into building lots. Steeple restored, 1828.

1824: Second Bank of the United States building completed (bank chartered, 1816); subject of President Andrew Jackson’s “Bank War.”

1830: First National Negro Convention held in Philadelphia.

1833: American Anti-Slavery Society founded in Philadelphia.

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Nineteenth Century Before 1854
Nineteenth Century Before 1854

1830s: Boston abolitionists adopt the Old State House (Independence Hall) bell as a symbol, naming it “The Liberty Bell.”

1840s: Best-selling novel The Quaker City (1844), by George Lippard, depicts Philadelphia as a city of violence and debauchery. In 1847, Lippard’s fictional Legends of the American Revolution associates Liberty Bell with the Declaration of Independence.

1840s: Steamship service and telegraph lines connect Philadelphia with other East Coast cities.

1840s: Nationally circulated magazines published in Philadelphia, including Godey’s Ladies Book, offer guidance for genteel behavior.

1850s: Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 leads to hearings for accused fugitives in Independence Hall.

Image credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

Nineteenth Century After 1854
Nineteenth Century After 1854

1854: Candidates of anti-immigrant American Party prevail in city elections; create shrine to Founding Fathers in Independence Hall (1855).

1856: First national convention of Republican Party held in Musical Fund Hall.

1858: Railroad extends from Pittsburgh to Chicago, linking Philadelphia to the West.

1861: Abraham Lincoln visits Philadelphia en route to inauguration in Washington; in 1865, body lies in state in Independence Hall.

1861-64: Although divided by opinions toward slavery, region rallies to Union during Civil War. Industries manufacture uniforms, munitions, and warships; Philadelphians treat wounded and raise funds at Great Central Fair (shown here). Camden and Philadelphia serve as transit points for troops.

Image credit: Library of Congress

Nineteenth Century After 1854
Nineteenth Century After 1854

1870: In first election after passage of Fifteenth Amendment, federal troops sent to Philadelphia and National Guard to Camden to protect African Americans attempting to vote.

1871: Philadelphia Athletics baseball team plays in first professional league, National Association of Professional Baseball Players.

1876: Centennial of Declaration of Independence marked by Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park and creation of National Museum in Independence Hall. Susan B. Anthony calls for equal rights for women.

1870s-90s: Market Street department stores, led by John Wanamaker, become national models.

1887: Centennial of U.S. Constitution (parade shown here).

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Twentieth Century Before 1945
Twentieth Century Before 1945

Great Migration from the South, especially during and after the world wars, increases the region’s African American population.

1903: Philadelphia described as “the most corrupt and the most contented” of American cities by Lincoln Steffens in McClure’s magazine.

1911: President William Howard Taft gives dedication speech for new Wanamakers department store building (shown here).

1913: Pennsylvania Emancipation Exposition, held in South Philadelphia, marks fiftieth anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation.

1914-18: Region’s ship builders and other manufacturers help to supply the Allies in the First World War.

Image credit: Library of Congress

Twentieth Century Before 1945
Twentieth Century Before 1945

1926: Sesquicentennial International Exposition (shown here) marks 150th anniversary of Declaration of Independence.

1930s: During Great Depression, many embrace idea of strong federal government to maintain prosperity; federal public housing addresses housing needs.

1936: Democratic Party holds national convention in Philadelphia. Republicans follow suit in 1940.

1937: Sesquicentennial of U.S. Constitution.

1941-45: Region’s industries become an “arsenal of democracy” for World War II.

1942: First observance of National Freedom Day (February 1), created in Philadelphia to mark Thirteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution.

Image credit: PhillyHistory.org

Twentieth Century After 1945
Twentieth Century After 1945

1948: Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives all hold national conventions in Philadelphia.

1948: Congress authorizes Independence National Historical Park (shown here, 1966).

1950s-70s: Federal urban renewal projects and interstate highways reshape city and region.

1952-63: Philadelphia-area teenagers influence national youth culture on American Bandstand.

1974 and 1975: Flyers win the Stanley Cup.

1976: Bicentennial of Declaration of Independence.

1980: Phillies win the World Series.

1985: MOVE bombing draws national attention.

1987: Bicentennial of U.S. Constitution.

Image credit: PhillyHistory.org

Twenty-First Century
Twenty-First Century

2000: Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia.

2001: Security tightened in city in response to 9/11 attacks.

2003: National Constitution Center opens (shown here).

2008: Phillies win the World Series.

Image credit: G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Map: National Connections and Impact

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