Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Nineteenth Century to 1854

Photograph of baby's dress made with "free cotton."Baby’s dress, c. 1845, labeled “free cotton” to assure that the item was not produced by slave labor. (Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, Friends Historical Association Collection, 1987, Photograph by Sara Hawken)

Industrialization, transportation, and migration transformed the Philadelphia region in the first half of the nineteenth century. While turnpikes, canals, and railroads extended the city’s reach, new communities also formed within Philadelphia County as boroughs such as Frankford and Spring Garden were incorporated and villages such as Manayunk developed around mills and factories. In South Jersey, parts of Gloucester County were divided to create Atlantic County (1837) and Camden County (1844).

Despite its industrial growth, Philadelphia lost its status as the nation’s leading port to New York, which benefited from the opening of the Erie Canal and from the dumping of stockpiled British textiles there following the War of 1812.  Also in this era, as in other American cities, social tensions often erupted in violence, including race riots in the 1830s and 1840s, the burning of Pennsylvania Hall in 1838, and the Nativist Riots of 1844. In part to quell the disorder, in 1854 consolidation brought all of Philadelphia County under the governance of the City of Philadelphia.

Topics: Nineteenth Century to 1854

Gallery: Nineteenth Century to 1854

Timeline: Nineteenth Century to 1854

Map: Nineteenth Century to 1854

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