History of Philadelphia
Historically, Philadelphia is one of the most important American cities and site of some of the nation’s most important events. It was founded by William Penn, founder of the Pennsylvania Colony and a Quaker, in 1682. His idea was to create a city on the Delaware River that will serve both as a place of government and as a port. The city grew quickly, its population increased and economically it was strong, so it was only logical that it would become a center for the American revolutionaries. One of the most famous residents at the time was Benjamin Franklin, who helped introduce some of the most vital services, such as the fire department, a hospital and a library.
Before the war, Philadelphia hosted the First Continental Congress and then, during the war, also the Second Continental Congress, which signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776. After the war ended, the city hosted the Constitutional Convention. It was the capital of the United States between 1790 and 1800.
For a while, Philadelphia was the largest and the most populous city in the United States, but it was soon surpassed by New York. Nevertheless, Philadelphia became the first, and at the time the largest industrial center in the States. In the 19th century the economy in the city thrived and the largest sectors were textiles, ship and engine building and various manufacturing businesses. The city hosted the first ever world fair in USA, the Centennial Exposition, in 1876. The population expanded very quickly with several waves of European immigrants, especially the Irish.
By the turn of the 20th century and in the first few decades, Philadelphia had another population boom, this time in form of African Americans from the South during what is called the Great Migration. The 20th century was initially marked by racial tensions, corruption and crime. Economically, it continued to be one of the America’s most powerful cities. The economy gradually shifted to services, finance and information industry.
Geography and Climate
Geographically, Philadelphia is located on the fall line between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Piedmont. It lies along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The climate in Philadelphia is humid subtropical, which means the summers are hot and muggy and winters are cold, while springs and autumns are mild. As for the snowfall, some winters it is only mild while others it may bring severe snowstorms.
In 2010, Philadelphia had 1,526,006 residents. The racial makeup was 42.2% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 36.9% non-Hispanic White, 12.3% Hispanic or Latino, 6.3% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 5.9% some other race and 2.8% two or more races.
The city has the second-largest Irish, Italian and Jamaican communities in the USA, the fourth-largest Polish community and the sixth-largest Jewish community.
In 2009, the median household income was $36,669 and the per capita income for the city was $20,882.
Until the mid-20th century, Philadelphia was the nation’s strongest Republican base, but today it is one of the most Democratic cities in the USA.
Economy of Philadelphia
The largest economic sectors in the city are manufacturing, oil refining, healthcare, biotechnology, food processing, financial services and tourism. Philadelphia is home to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and many large corporations, most notably Sunoco, Lincoln Financial Group, Colonial Penn, CIGNA, Crown Holdings Incorporated, Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline, Pep Boys and others.
Philadelphia is a major legal center of the nation. It is home to ten of the 100 largest law firms in the nation, headquarters of the American Law Institute and home to law schools such of Penn, Rutgers, Drexel, Temple and other universities.
It is also home of the first hospital in the colonies, the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the first medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.
Attractions and Culture
The city has over 2 million visitors each year, attracted by the city’s rich history and attractions such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, homes of Edgar Allan Poe, Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Betsy Ross, the Gloria Dei Church, Fort Mifflin and other historic sites.
As for the architecture, the city was in past dominated by Georgian style (Independence Hall) and later by Federal and Greek Revival architecture. The typical Philadelphian home is the row house, from Victorian-styled houses to twin row houses. The largest park in the city is Fairmount Park, which includes the Philadelphia Zoo.
Major museums in the city include the Franklin Institute, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Mutter Museum, national Constitution Center, African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Rodin Museum, Pennsylvania Academy for the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Academy of Music is the nation’s oldest opera house, home to the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts houses the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the USA.
As for the popular music, Philadelphia was very influential in the 1970s with its own style of soul music and later it was home to a number of prominent hip-hop artists, such as The Roots, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
Philadelphia is famous for its public art. In fact, the city has more public art than any other in the nation. It also has more murals than any other American city, which is not strange considering Philadelphia was basically the birthplace of graffiti art.
The city is also famous for its cuisine, especially the Philly Cheese Steak, hoagies, soft pretzels and water ice.
Philadelphia is an important center of higher education. It is home to over 80 colleges, universities and specialty schools. It has three major research universities: the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Temple University, as well as five schools of medicine: the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, Drexel University School of Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Thomas Jefferson University.
Other institutions of higher learning in the city include Pierce College, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia University, Saint Joseph’s University, La Salle University, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music and others.
Residents of Philadelphia are very passionate about sports. The city is home to the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL), the Philadelphia Flyers (NHL), the Philadelphia Phillies (MLB) and the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA).
The city’s primary airport is Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Philadelphia is Amtrak’s regional hub. The 30th Street Station is the primary stop on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Keystone Corridor services.
In 2011, Philadelphia ranked fifth most walkable city in the USA.