History of Philadelphia

The written history of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Cayuga: Tganadaęˀgo:wah "Big town lying there" ), goes back to 1682, when the city was founded by William Penn between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Before then, the area was inhabited by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. Swedish settlers arrived in the area in the early 17th century to found a colony. With the arrival of more numerous English colonists and development of the port on the Delaware, Philadelphia quickly grew into an important colonial city. During the American Revolution, it was the site of the First and Second Continental Congresses. After the Revolution, the city was chosen to be the temporary capital of the United States from 1790-1800.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the federal and state governments left Philadelphia, but the city continued as the cultural and financial center of the country for years. Its large free black community aided fugitive slaves and founded the first independent black denomination in the nation, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Philadelphia became one of the first U.S. industrial centers with a variety of industries, the largest being textiles. It had many economic and family ties to the South, with southern planters maintaining second homes in the city and having business connections with banks, sending their daughters to French finishing schools run by refugees from Saint-Domingue, selling their cotton to textile manufacturers, which in turn sold some products to the South, for instance, clothing for slaves. At the beginning of the American Civil War, there were many southern sympathizers, although the majority of the city residents became firmly Union as the war went on.

After the war, American Civil War, city government was controlled by the Republican Party; it established a political machine that gained power through patronage. By the beginning of the 20th century, Philadelphia was described as "corrupt and contented." Various reform efforts slowly changed city government; the most significant took place in 1950 under a new city charter that strengthened the position of mayor and weakened the Philadelphia City Council. Beginning during the Great Depression, voters changed from traditional support for the Republican Party to increasing support for the Democratic Party of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has now been predominant in local politics for many decades.

The population grew dramatically at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, through immigration from western, eastern and southern Europe, as well as the Great Migration of blacks from the rural South and Puerto Ricans from the Caribbean, all attracted to the city's expanding industrial jobs. The Pennsylvania Railroad was expanding and hired 10,000 workers from the South. Manufacturing plants and the US Navy Yard employed tens of thousands of industrial workers along the rivers, and the city was also a center of finance and publishing, with major universities. By the 1950s, much Philadelphia housing was aged and substandard. In the post-World War II era of suburbanization and construction of area highways, many middle-class families met their demand for newer housing by leaving the city for the suburbs. Population decline accompanied the industrial restructuring and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the mid 20th century. With increasing poverty and social dislocation in the city, gang and mafia warfare plagued the city in the mid-20th century.

By the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, revitalization and gentrification of historic neighborhoods attracted an increase in middle-class population as people began to return to the city. New immigrants from Southeast Asia, and Central and South America have contributed their energy to the city. Promotions and incentives in the 1990s and the early 21st century have improved the city's image and created a condominium boom in Center City and the surrounding areas.

Read more about History Of Philadelphia:  Founding, Early Growth, Revolution, Temporary Capital, Industrial Growth, Late 19th Century, Early 20th Century, Great Depression and World War II, Reform and Decline, Into The 21st Century

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