Nineteenth Century to 1854


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.

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Related Reading

Clark, Dennis. The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973.

Davis, Allen F. and Mark H. Haller, eds. The Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790-1940. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973.

Davis, Susan G. Parades and Power: Street Theatre in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

DuBois, W.E.B. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1899.

Farley, James J. Making Arms in the Machine Age: Philadelphia’s Frankford Arsenal, 1816-1870. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 2008.

Feldberg, Michael. The Philadelphia Riots of 1844: A Study of Ethnic Conflict. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975.

—–.  The Turbulent Era: Riot and Disorder in Jacksonian America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Gallman, J. Matthew. Receiving Erin’s Children: Philadelphia, Liverpool, and the Irish Famine Migration, 1845-1855. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Gibbs, Jenna M. Performing the Temple of Liberty: Slavery, Theater, and Popular Culture in London and Philadelphia, 1760-1850. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

Henrich, Thomas R. Ships for the Seven Seas: Philadelphia Shipbuilding in the Age of Industrial Capitalism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Juliani, Richard N. Building Little Italy: Philadelphia’s Italians Before Mass Migration. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 1998.

Lane, Roger. Violent Death in the City: Suicide, Accident, and Murder in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979.

Laurie, Bruce. Working People of Philadelphia, 1800-1850. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.

Licht, Walter. Getting Work: Philadelphia, 1840-1950. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Meranze, Michael. Laboratories of Virtue: Punishment, Revolution, and Authority in Philadelphia, 1760-1835. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Milano, Kenneth W. The Philadelphia Nativist Riots: Kensington Erupts. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2013.

Nash, Gary B. Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Rilling, Donna J. Making Houses, Crafting Capitalism: Builders in Philadelphia, 1790-1850. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Remer, Rosalind. Printers and Men of Capital: Philadelphia Book Publishers in the New Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Scranton, Philip. Proprietary Capitalism: The Textile Manufacture at Philadelphia, 1800-1885. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Sellers, Charles Coleman. Mr. Peale’s Museum: Charles Willson Peale and the First Popular Museum of Natural Science and Art. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1980.

Silcox, Harry C. A Place to Live and Work: The Henry Disston Saw Works and the Tacony Community of Philadelphia. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 1994.

Tomek, Beverly C. Pennsylvania Hall: A “Legal Lynching” in the Shadow of the Liberty Bell. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Winch, Julie. Philadelphia’s Black Elite: Activism, Accommodation, and the Struggle for Autonomy, 1787-1848. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

Wright, Robert E. The First Wall Street: Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, & the Birth of American Finance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

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Connecting the Past with the Present, Building Community, Creating a Legacy