Before Europeans arrived, the Philadelphia area was home to the Lenape (Delaware) Indians in the village of Shackamaxon. Europeans came to the Delaware Valley in the early 17th century, with the first settlements founded by the Dutch, who in 1623 built Fort Nassau on the Delaware River opposite the Schuylkill River in what is now Brooklawn, New Jersey. The Dutch considered the entire Delaware River valley to be part of their New Netherland colony. In 1638, Swedish settlers led by renegade Dutch established the colony of New Sweden at Fort Christina (present day Wilmington, Delaware) and quickly spread out in the valley. In 1644, New Sweden supported the Susquehannocks in their military defeat of the English colony of Maryland. In 1648, the Dutch built Fort Beversreede on the west bank of the Delaware, south of the Schuylkill near the present-day Eastwick section of Philadelphia, to reassert their dominion over the area. The Swedes responded by building Fort Nya Korsholm, named New Korsholm after a town that is now in Finland. In 1655, a Dutch military campaign led by New Netherland Director-General Peter Stuyvesant took control of the Swedish colony, ending its claim to independence, although the Swedish and Finnish settlers continued to have their own militia, religion, and court, and to enjoy substantial autonomy under the Dutch. The English conquered the New Netherland colony in 1664, but the situation did not really change until 1682, when the area was included in William Penn's charter for Pennsylvania.
In 1681, in partial repayment of a debt, Charles II of England granted William Penn a charter for what would become the Pennsylvania colony. Despite the royal charter, Penn bought the land from the local Lenape to be on good terms with the Native Americans and ensure peace for his colony. According to legend Penn made a treaty of friendship with Lenape chief Tammany under an elm tree at Shackamaxon, in what is now the city's Fishtown section. Penn named the city Philadelphia, which is Greek for brotherly love (from philos, "love" or "friendship", and adelphos, "brother"). As a Quaker, Penn had experienced religious persecution and wanted his colony to be a place where anyone could worship freely. This tolerance, far more than afforded by most other colonies, led to better relations with the local Native tribes and fostered Philadelphia's rapid growth into America's most important city. Penn planned a city on the Delaware River to serve as a port and place for government. Hoping that Philadelphia would become more like an English rural town instead of a city, Penn laid out roads on a grid plan to keep houses and businesses spread far apart, with areas for gardens and orchards. The city's inhabitants did not follow Penn's plans, as they crowded by the Delaware River, the port, and subdivided and resold their lots. Before Penn left Philadelphia for the last time, he issued the Charter of 1701 establishing it as a city. It became an important trading center, poor at first, but with tolerable living conditions by the 1750s. Benjamin Franklin, a leading citizen, helped improve city services and founded new ones, such as fire protection, a library, and one of the American colonies' first hospitals.
A number of important philosophical societies were formed, which were centers of the city's intellectual life: the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (1785), the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts (1787), the Academy of Natural Sciences (1812), and the Franklin Institute (1824). These worked to develop and finance new industries and attract skilled and knowledgeable immigrants from Europe.
Philadelphia's importance and central location in the colonies made it a natural center for America's revolutionaries. The city hosted the First Continental Congress before the war; the Second Continental Congress, which signed the United States Declaration of Independence, during the war; and the Constitutional Convention (1787) after the war. Several battles were fought in and near Philadelphia as well.
Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States, 1790–1800, while the Federal City was under construction in the District of Columbia. In 1793, the largest yellow fever epidemics in U.S. history killed at least 4,000 and up to 5,000 people in Philadelphia, roughly 10% of the city's population.
The state government left Philadelphia in 1799, and the federal government was relocated to Washington, DC in 1800 with completion of the White House and Capitol. The city remained the young nation's largest with a population of nearly 50,000 at the turn of the 19th century; it was a financial and cultural center. Before 1800, its free black community founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent black denomination in the country, and the first black Episcopal Church. The free black community also established many schools for its children, with the help of Quakers. New York City soon surpassed Philadelphia in population but, with the construction of roads, canals, and railroads, Philadelphia became the first major industrial city in the United States.
Throughout the 19th century, Philadelphia had a variety of industries and businesses, the largest being textiles. Major corporations in the 19th and early 20th centuries included the Baldwin Locomotive Works, William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Industry, along with the U.S. Centennial, was celebrated in 1876 with the Centennial Exposition, the first official World's Fair in the United States. Immigrants, mostly Irish and German, settled in Philadelphia and the surrounding districts. The rise in population of the surrounding districts helped lead to the Act of Consolidation of 1854 which extended the city of Philadelphia to include all of Philadelphia County. The city was a destination for thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine in the 1840s; housing for them was developed south of South Street, and was later occupied by succeeding immigrants. They established a network of Catholic churches and schools, and dominated the Catholic clergy for decades. In the latter half of the century, immigrants from Russia, Eastern Europe and Italy; and African Americans from the southern U.S. settled in the city. Between 1880 and 1930, the African-American population of Philadelphia increased from 31,699 to 219,559. Twentieth-century black newcomers were part of the Great Migration out of the rural South to northern and midwestern industrial cities.
In the American Civil War, Philadelphia was represented by the Washington Grays (Philadelphia).
By the 20th century, Philadelphia had become known as "corrupt and contented", with a complacent population and an entrenched Republican political machine. The first major reform came in 1917 when outrage over the election-year murder of a police officer led to the shrinking of the Philadelphia City Council from two houses to just one. In July 1919, Philadelphia was one of more than 36 industrial cities nationally to suffer a race riot of ethnic whites against blacks during Red Summer, in post-World War I unrest, as recent immigrants competed with blacks for jobs. In the 1920s, the public flouting of Prohibition laws, mob violence, and police involvement in illegal activities led to the appointment of Brigadier General Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps as director of public safety, but political pressure prevented any long-term success in fighting crime and corruption.
In 1940, non-Hispanic whites constituted 86.8% of the city's population. The population peaked at more than two million residents in 1950, then began to decline with the restructuring of industry, which led to the loss of many middle-class union jobs. In addition, suburbanization had been drawing off many of the wealthier residents to outlying railroad commuting towns and newer housing. Revitalization and gentrification of neighborhoods began in the late 1970s and continues into the 21st century, with much of the development in the Center City and University City areas of the city. After many of the old manufacturers and businesses left Philadelphia or shut down, the city started attracting service businesses and began to more aggressively market itself as a tourist destination. Glass-and-granite skyscrapers were built in Center City. Historic areas such as Independence National Historical Park located in Old City and Society Hill were renovated during the reformist mayoral era of the 1950s through the 1980s. They are now among the most desirable living areas of Center City. This has slowed the city's 40-year population decline after it lost nearly one-quarter of its population. The city has attracted more recent immigrants: Hispanics from Central and South America, Asian refugees from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Educated Asians from India have tended to settle in suburbs with other middle- and upper-class people.
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