Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Chris Satullo

City of Brotherly Love

When naming a newborn, you feel the weight of the decision, the fond hope that the right name might provide a push along a hoped-for path.

Even as names seek to nudge destiny, sometimes they merely set up irony: Faith, the fiery atheist; Victor, the embittered failure.

We can’t know all the thoughts that coursed through William Penn’s mind when he chose Philadelphia as the name for his new city, tucked onto the peninsula between the Delaware River and the Schuylkill. What we do know is that he chose boldly, aiming for the vault of heaven, daring irony to strike. The name he gave his city combined the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos), setting up the enduring civic nickname: the City of Brotherly Love.  Then Penn gave his city a street grid, a charter and a diplomatic first act that he hoped would enable it to live up to that name.

So how did it turn out, this Holy Experiment?

Read More »

Share This Page: