Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Philadelphia and the World

Photograph of Chinatown Friendship Gate in Chinatown, PhiladelphiaChinatown Friendship Gate (G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia)

From its origins as a series of settlements at the edge of the Atlantic World to the age of international air travel, Greater Philadelphia has been a crossroads of global interaction and exchange. With a diverse population from the start, inhabited by Native Americans and then colonized by Dutch, Swedes, Englishmen, Germans, and Africans, the region has been reshaped and reinvigorated by more than three centuries of new waves of immigration. Networks of transportation, communication, travel, trade, and culture link the region to the world.

Topics: Global Connections and Impact

Gallery: Global Connections and Impact

The London Coffee House
The London Coffee House

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Slavery and the Slave Trade).

Preparation For War
Preparation For War

Library of Congress (Explore in Shipbuilding and Shipyards).

Cholera
Cholera

New York Academy of Medicine (Explore in Cholera).

World’s Fair
World’s Fair

Library Company of Philadelphia (Explore in Centennial Exhibition).

Irish Memorial
Irish Memorial

(Explore in Immigration, 1790-1860.)

Southwark Riot
Southwark Riot

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

IWW Membership Button, 1917
IWW Membership Button, 1917
The Italian Market, 1954
The Italian Market, 1954

PhillyHistory.org (Explore in Italian Market).

Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1942
Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1942

Library of Congress (Explore in Workshop of the World and World War II).

 

Principled Activist
Principled Activist

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Sullivan Principles).

 

The HACE Mall (Golden Block)
The HACE Mall (Golden Block)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Explore in Immigration, 1930-Present).

Timeline: Global Connections and Impact

Colonial Era
Colonial Era

1609-1680s: Dutch, Swedes, Finns, and English explore, settle, and conduct trade in Delaware River valley; with them come enslaved Africans.

1638: New Sweden established at Fort Christina (later Wilmington, Del.); settlements extend to both sides of Delaware River.

1681: King Charles II of England grants land for Pennsylvania to William Penn (Philadelphia founded, 1682).

1680s-90s: Philadelphia becomes chief port on Delaware River.

1683: Founding of Germantown.

1700s: Economy disrupted by international upheavals, including Queen Anne’s War (1702-13) and collapse of South Sea Bubble (1720s).

Image credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

Colonial Era
Colonial Era

Quakers maintain international and intercolonial networks of communication.

1720s: Alarmed by surge in immigration by Germans and Scots-Irish, English-dominated Pennsylvania Assembly approves a tax to discourage more.

1739-40: George Whitfield, Great Awakening evangelist from England, begins American tour in Philadelphia, preaches to large outdoor audiences.

1743: Founding of American Philosophical Society, which gains international recognition for investigations in science and technology.

1756-63: Trade opportunities increase during Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France; Philadelphia houses troops and receives refugees from the West.

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

American Revolution
American Revolution

Philadelphia becomes revolutionary capital in War for Independence from Great Britain:

1776: Declaration of Independence.

1776-81: Trade with Cuba intensifies during the war with Britain.

1777: Philadelphia Campaign: Battle of Brandywine (September 11), Paoli Assault (September 20), Battle of Germantown (October 4), Battle of Red Bank (October 22).

1777-78: British occupation; winter encampment of Continental Army at Valley Forge.

1783: Treaty of Paris ends the War for Independence.

1786-87: Philadelphia begins trade with China.

Image credit: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Capital of the United States
Capital of the United States

1790s: As nation’s capital, Philadelphia attracts refugees from the Haitian Revolution, French Revolution, and Spanish-American revolutions.

1790s: Philadelphians and Spanish diplomats form alliances for trade with Cuba.

1793: Philadelphia welcomes French Minister Edmond-Charles Genet.

1793: Yellow fever, caused by virus originating in Africa and transmitted by mosquitoes, becomes epidemic.

1798: Construction of frigate Philadelphia (shown here); ship commissioned 1800, later captured and burned in Barbary Wars off the coast of Tripoli.

1798: Joseph Bunel, Toussaint L’Ouverture’s diplomatic representative, arrives from St. Domingue (Haiti) to meet with U.S. officials.

Image credit: Library of Congress

Nineteenth Century Before 1854
Nineteenth Century Before 1854

Trade expands with China and Latin America; sugar and cigar industries attract migration from Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Philadelphia gains reputation as the “Athens of America” and “Athens of the Western World.”

1801: Lazaretto quarantine station opens in Tinicum to inspect incoming cargo and passengers.

1830s: African Americans in Philadelphia organize opposition to colonization, the movement to send free blacks to Africa.

1832: Cholera epidemic reaches Philadelphia from Asia and Europe.

1840s: Increase in Irish immigration; nativist reaction triggers riots in 1844.

Image credit: Library of Congress

Nineteenth Century After 1854
Nineteenth Century After 1854

1860: Delegation of Japanese dignitaries, first official envoys to the West, tour Philadelphia.

1870s: Origins of Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

1871: Grand Duke Alexis of Russia visits; lavishly entertained with Grand Ball at Academy of Music.

Mid-1870s: Washington Avenue Immigration Station opens.

1876: Centennial Exhibition, world’s fair in Fairmount Park (shown here), marks 100th anniversary of Declaration of Independence.

1880s: New immigration surge begins from southern and eastern Europe; increases Italian population in South Philadelphia and Jewish settlement near South and Lombard Streets. Jewish immigrants flee Russian pogroms, beginning 1882.

Image credit: Library Company of Philadelphia

Twentieth Century Before 1945
Twentieth Century Before 1945

Because of its industry, Philadelphia becomes known as “Workshop of the World.”

1905-18: Immigration doubles Philadelphia’s Jewish population, from 100,000 to 200,000.

1914-18: WWI mobilizes homefront patriotism but also leads to anti-German intolerance.

1920, 1924: World champion rower John B. Kelly Sr. wins Gold in the Olympics (daughter Grace marries Monaco’s Prince Rainier in 1956).

1926: Sesquicentennial International Exposition.

1930s: Global Depression causes unemployment, bank failures, and price deflation.

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

Image credit: Library of Congress

Twentieth Century After 1945
Twentieth Century After 1945

New populations of Puerto Ricans, other Spanish-speakers, Asians, and Africans arrive.

1945: Transatlantic service begins at Philadelphia International Airport (shown here, 1960).

1945-46: Philadelphians propose site in Fairmount Park for United Nations capital; lose to New York.

1954: International Visitors Council created to promote citizen diplomacy.

1960s-70s: Fifty-four former students from Philadelphia’s Edison High School die in Vietnam, the most of any high school in the nation.

1976: Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies founded.

1977: Rev. Leon Sullivan launches Sullivan Principles to combat apartheid in South Africa.

Image credit: PhillyHistory.org

Twenty-First Century
Twenty-First Century

Diverse “global communities” emerge in South Philadelphia, upper North Philadelphia, and Upper Darby just west of the city.

2006: “This is America: When Ordering Please Speak English” sign at Geno’s Steaks sparks controversy.

2008: City of Philadelphia gains population for the first time since the 1950s, propelled mainly by immigration.

2009: World Class Philadelphia initiative launched by Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

2010: Global Philadelphia Association founded.

Image credit: Photograph by Mary Rizzo

Map: Global Connections and Impact

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