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American Revolution History by
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Legend: Selected Site Area Merchant Site Historic Site Historic Marker Historic Shipwreck
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Selected Site

Bartram's Gardens

54th St. and Lindbergh Blvd
Philadelphia, PA, 19143

Bartram's Garden – 18th Century Home of John Bartram Naturalist & Botanist & Explorer

Click on heading to visit the website (excludes markers).

Nearby Historic Sites

Cedar Grove

Cedar Grove Drive
Philadelphia, PA, 19131

Fort Mifflin

Philadelphia, PA, 19153

Gloria Dei (Old Swedes) Church

Columbus Blvd. & Christian Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19147

Laurel Hill Mansion

Randolph Drive East Fairmount Park
Philadelphia, PA, 19121

Lemon Hill Mansion

Sedgely Dr
Philadelphia, PA, 19130

McNeil Center for Early American Studies

3355 Woodland Walk
Philadelphia, PA, 19104

Mount Pleasant

3800 Mount Pleasant Drive
Philadelphia, PA, 19121

Olde Fort Mifflin Historical Society

Fort Mifflin Rd. and Hog Island Rd.
Philadelphia, PA, 19153

Ryal Heritage Society at Ormiston Mansion

2000 Reservoir Drive
Philadelphia, PA, 19121

Sweetbriar Mansion

1 Sweetbriar Lane
Philadelphia, PA, 19131

The Library Company of Philadelphia

1314 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Click on any heading to visit the website.

Nearby Historical Markers

"Gloria Dei" Church

Philadelphia, PA, 19147

Here in 1677, Swedish settlers founded the first Christian church within what is now Philadelphia. Religious services were originally held in a log blockhouse. The present edifice, was erected in 1698-1703 and dedicated on June 2, 1700. In 1845 the congregation was received into the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. On November 17, 1942 this site was designated as a national historic shrine commemorating the cultural and religious aspects of Swedish colonization in America.

Catherine Hanson

Philadelphia, PA, 19147

This fountain is to the memory of Catherine Hanson. Daughter of Andrew Hanson, died October 28, 1646 at 8 years of age and was the first white body to be laid away in the soil of the Swedish Colony, which is now Pennsylvania.

Fort Mifflin

Eastwick, PA, 19153

Laid out in 1771 by the engineer John Montrésor. Heroically held by the Americans under British siege until they were forced out, Nov. 15, 1777. Rebuilt 1798-1800 according to L’Enfant’s design and enlarged in the 19th century. A U.S. military post until the 1950s.

Gloria Dei Church

Philadelphia, PA, 19147

Oldest church in Philadelphia. Founded, 1677, by Swedish settlers. This edifice of Swedish architectural design, was erected 1698-1703. The earlier place of worship was a blockhouse.

Old Swedes' Church

Camden, NJ, 19147

"I joined in marriage the first couple, viz., Jonas Jonson, a Swede, and Anne Amesby, an English woman, in the English language."
Diary of Rev. Andreas Sandel, July 29, 1702

Here are the memories of an all but forgotten group of early settlers in America - the Swedes. More than 300 years ago, before the founding of the city of Philadelphia, Swedes settled the Delaware Valley. Religion was important to these early pioneers who first worshipped in log buildings in 1677.

The present church was dedicated in 1700, and is now the oldest church in Pennsylvania. Later, English immigrants founded Philadelphia, resulting in the eventual assimilation of the Swedes.

Today the Episcopal congregation of Gloria Dei Church helps to preserve the pioneering heritage of the Swedes who settled here when this was only wilderness.

Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church was designated a National Historic Site in 1938. Park-owned land surrounding the church helps to preserve the historic setting. The church buildings and burial ground are privately owned and administered. Visitors who enter with respect are welcome during scheduled hours.

Printz's (Old Swedes) Mill

Philadelphia, PA, 19142

The first European water-powered mill in what is now Pa. was built here c. 1645 by New Sweden governor, Johann Printz. New Sweden Colony was established in 1638 and existed until 1655, when the Dutch, and later, William Penn claimed the territory. Built along the Great Minquas Path, the primitive Norse or Splash grist mill was among the first industrial sites in Pa. Its square anchoring holes remain, visible below the mill dam constructed later.

Robert Smith

Philadelphia, PA, 19147

Here stood the home of colonial Philadelphia’s leading architect and builder. Born Jan. 14, 1722 at Dalkeith, Scotland, he died Feb. 11, 1777. Among his buildings are the Christ Church steeple, St. Peter’s Church, the Walnut Street Prison, and Carpenters’ Hall.

The Grand Battery

Philadelphia, PA, 19147

Known also as the Association Battery, this was Pennsylvania's largest early fortification. Originally built in 1748, shortly after formation of a volunteer military force called the Association, it mounted 27 guns; within a few years it held some 50 guns. Later the first Philadelphia Navy Yard was here, 1800-1875. A short distance to the north, the smaller Society Hill Battery was built in April 1748; it mounted 13 guns.

Community Histories



Before Philadelphia was founded, the area was inhabited by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. The village of Nitapèkunk, "Place that is easy to get to," was located in today's Fairmount Park area. The villages of Pèmikpeka, "Where the water flows," and Shackamaxon were located on the Delaware River.

European colonization of the Delaware River Valley (called the Zuyd, meaning "South" River, or Lënapei Sipu at the time) began in 1609 when a Dutch expedition led by Henry Hudson first entered the river in search of the Northwest Passage. The Valley, including the future location of Philadelphia, became part of the New Netherland claim of the Dutch and Dutch explorer Cornelius Jacobsen Mey (after whom Cape May, New Jersey is named) charted the shoals Delaware Bay in the 1620s. The Dutch built a fort on the west side of the bay at Swanendael.

In 1637, Swedish, Dutch and German stockholders formed the New Sweden Company to trade for furs and tobacco in North America. Under the command of Peter Minuit, the company's first expedition sailed from Sweden late in 1637 in two ships, Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Gri. Minuit had been the governor of the New Netherland from 1626 to 1631. Resenting his dismissal by the Dutch West India Company he had brought to the new project the knowledge that the Dutch colony had temporarily abandoned its efforts in the Delaware Valley to focus on the Hudson River valley to the north. (The Hudson was known to the Dutch as the Noort, or "North" river relative to "South" of the Delaware.) Minuit and his partners further knew that the Dutch view of colonies held that actual occupation was necessary to secure legal claim. The ships reached Delaware Bay in March 1638, and the settlers began to build a fort at the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware. They named it Fort Christina, in honor of the twelve-year-old Queen Christina of Sweden. It was the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley. Part of this colony eventually included land on the west side of the Delaware River from just below the Schuylkill River.

Johan Björnsson Printz, who had been ennobled, was appointed to be the first royal governor of New Sweden, arriving in the colony on 15 February 1643. Under his ten-year rule, the administrative center of New Sweden was moved north to Tinicum Island (to the immediate SW of today's Philadelphia), where he built Fort New Gothenburg and his own manor house which he called the Printzhof.

The first English settlement occurred about 1642, when 50 Puritan families from the New Haven Colony in Connecticut, led by George Lamberton, tried to establish a theocracy at the mouth of the Schuylkill River. The New Haven Colony had earlier struck a deal with the Lenape to buy much of New Jersey south of present-day Trenton. The Dutch and Swedes in the area burned the English colonists' buildings. A Swedish court under Swedish Governor Johan Björnsson Printz convicted Lamberton of "trespassing, conspiring with the Indians." The Noffshoot ew Haven colony received no support. The Puritan Governor John Winthrop said it was dissolved owing to summer "sickness and mortality." The disaster contributed to New Haven's losing control of its area to the larger Connecticut Colony.

In 1644, New Sweden supported the Susquehannock in their victory in a war against the English Province of Maryland (led by General Harrison II). The Dutch never recognized the legitimacy of the Swedish claim and, in the late summer of 1655, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam mustered a military expedition to the Delaware Valley to subdue the rogue colony. Though the colonists had to recognize the authority of New Netherland, the Dutch terms were tolerant. The Swedish and Finnish settlers continued to enjoy a much local autonomy, having their own militia, religion, court, and lands. This official status lasted until the English conquest of New Netherland in October 1664, and continued unofficially until the area was included in William Penn's charter for Pennsylvania in 1682. By 1682 the area of modern Philadelphia was inhabited by about fifty Europeans, mostly subsistence farmers.

In 1681, as part of a repayment of a debt, Charles II of England granted William Penn a charter for what would become the Pennsylvania colony. Shortly after receiving the charter, Penn said he would lay out "a large Towne or Citty in the most Convenient place upon the Delaware River for health & Navigation." Penn wanted the city to live peacefully in the area, without a fortress or walls, so he bought the land from the Lenape. The legend is that Penn made a treaty of friendship with Lenape chief Tammany under an elm tree at Shackamaxon, in what became the city's Kensington District.

Penn envisioned a city where all people regardless of religion could worship freely and live together. Being a Quaker, Penn had experienced religious persecution. He also planned that the city's streets would be set up in a grid, with the idea that the city would be more like the rural towns of England than its crowded cities. The homes would be spread far apart and surrounded by gardens and orchards. The city granted the first purchasers land along the Delaware River for their homes. It had access to the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean, and became an important port in the Thirteen Colonies. He named the city Philadelphia (philos, "love" or "friendship", and adelphos, "brother"); it was to have a commercial center for a market, state house, and other key buildings.

Penn sent three commissioners to supervise the settlement and to set aside 10,000 acres (40 km²) for the city. The commissioners bought land from Swedes at the settlement of Wicaco, and from there began to lay out the city toward the north. The area went about a mile along the Delaware River between modern South and Vine Streets. Penn arrived in Philadelphia in October 1682. He expanded the city west to the bank of the Schuylkill River, for a total of 1,200 acres (4.8 km²). Streets were laid out in a gridiron system. Except for the two widest streets, High (now Market) and Broad, the streets were named after prominent landowners who owned adjacent lots. The streets were renamed in 1684; the ones running east-west were named after local trees and the north-south streets were numbered. Within the area, four squares (now named Rittenhouse, Logan, Washington and Franklin) were set aside as parks open for everyone. Penn designed a central square at the intersection of Broad and what is now Market Street to be surrounded by public buildings.

Some of the first settlers lived in caves dug out of the river bank, but the city grew with construction of homes, churches, and wharves. The new landowners did not share Penn's vision of a non-congested city. Most people bought land along the Delaware River instead of spreading westward towards the Schuylkill. The lots they bought were subdivided and resold with smaller streets constructed between them. Before 1704, few people lived west of Fourth Street.

Philadelphia grew from a few hundred inhabitants in 1683 to over 2,500 in 1701. The population was mostly English, Welsh, Irish, Germans, Swedes, Finns, Dutch, and African slaves. Before William Penn left Philadelphia for the last time on October 25, 1701 he issued the Charter of 1701. The charter established Philadelphia as a city and gave the mayor, aldermen, and councilmen the authority to issue laws and ordinances and regulate markets and fairs. The first known Jewish resident of Philadelphia was Jonas Aaron, a German who moved to the city in 1703. He is mentioned in an article entitled "A Philadelphia Business Directory of 1703," by Charles H. Browning. It was published in The American Historical Register, in April, 1895.

Philadelphia became an important trading center and major port. Initially the city's main source of trade was with the West Indies, which had established sugar cane plantations. It was part of the Triangle Trade, associated with Africa and the British Isles. During Queen Anne's War (1702 and 1713) with the French, trade was cut off to the West Indies, hurting Philadelphia financially. The end of the war brought brief prosperity to all of the British territories, but a depression in the 1720s stunted Philadelphia's growth. The 1720s and '30s saw immigration from mostly Germany and northern Ireland to Philadelphia and the surrounding countryside. The region was developed for agriculture and Philadelphia exported grains, lumber products and flax seeds to Europe and elsewhere in the American colonies; this pulled the city out of the depression. Philadelphia's pledge of religious tolerance attracted many other religions beside Quakers. Mennonites, Pietists, Anglicans, Catholics, and Jews moved to the city and soon outnumbered the Quakers, but they continued to be powerful economically and politically. Political tensions existed between and within the religious groups, which also had national connections. Riots in 1741 and 1742 took place over high bread prices and drunken sailors. In October 1742 and the "Bloody Election" riots, sailors attacked Quakers and pacifist Germans, whose peace politics were strained by the War of Jenkins' Ear. The city was plagued by pickpockets and other petty criminals. Working in the city government had such a poor reputation that fines were imposed on citizens who refused to serve an office after being chosen. One man fled Philadelphia to avoid serving as mayor.

In the first half the 18th century, like other American cities, Philadelphia was dirty, with garbage and animals littering the streets. The roads were unpaved and in rainy seasons impassable. Early attempts to improve quality of life were ineffective as laws were poorly enforced. By the 1750s, Philadelphia was turning into a major city. Christ Church and the Pennsylvania State House, better known as Independence Hall, were built. Streets were paved and illuminated with gas lights. Philadelphia's first newspaper, Andrew Bradford's American Weekly Mercury, began publishing on December 22, 1719.

The city also developed culturally and scientifically. Schools, libraries and theaters were founded. James Logan arrived in Philadelphia in 1701 as a secretary for William Penn. He was the first to help establish Philadelphia as a place of culture and learning. Logan, who was the mayor of Philadelphia in the early 1720s, created one of the largest libraries in the colonies. He also helped guide other prominent Philadelphia residents, which included botanist John Bartram and Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia in October 1723 and would play a large part in the city's development. To help protect the city from fire, Franklin founded the Union Fire Company. In the 1750s Franklin was named one of the city's post master generals and he established postal routes between Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and elsewhere. He helped raise money to build the American colonies' first hospital, which opened in 1752. That same year the College of Philadelphia, another project of Franklin's, received its charter of incorporation. Threatened by French and Spanish privateers, Franklin and others set up a volunteer group for defense and built two batteries. When the French and Indian War began in 1754 as part of the Seven Years' War, Franklin recruited militias. During the war, the city attracted many refugees from the western frontier. When Pontiac's Rebellion occurred in 1763, refugees again fled into the city, including a group of Lenape hiding from other Native Americans, angry at their pacifism, and white frontiersmen. The Paxton Boys tried to follow them into Philadelphia for attacks, but was prevented by the city's militia and Franklin, who convinced them to leave.

In the 1760s the British Parliament's passage of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts, combined with other frustrations, increased political tension and anger against England in the colonies. Philadelphia residents joined boycotts of British goods. After the Tea Act in 1773, there were threats against anyone who would store tea and any ships that brought tea up the Delaware. After the Boston Tea Party, a shipment of tea had arrived in December, on the ship the Polly. A committee told the captain to depart without unloading his cargo. A series of acts in 1774 further angered the colonies; activists called for a general congress and they agreed to meet in Philadelphia. The First Continental Congress was held in September in Carpenters' Hall. After the American Revolutionary War began in April 1775 following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress met in May at the Pennsylvania State House. There they also met a year later to write and sign the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. Philadelphia was important to the war effort; Robert Morris said, "You will consider Philadelphia, from its centrical situation, the extent of its commerce, the number of its artificers, manufactures and other circumstances, to be to the United States what the heart is to the human body in circulating the blood."

The port city was vulnerable to attack by the British by sea. Officials recruited soldiers and studied defenses for invasion from Delaware Bay, but built no forts or other installations. In March 1776 two British frigates began a blockade of the mouth of Delaware Bay; British soldiers were moving south through New Jersey from New York. In December fear of invasion caused half the population to flee the city, including the Continental Congress, which moved to Baltimore. General George Washington pushed back the British advance at the battles of Princeton and Trenton, and the refugees and Congress returned. In September 1777 the British invaded Philadelphia from the south. Washington intercepted them at the Battle of Brandywine but was driven back. Thousands fled north into Pennsylvania and east into New Jersey; Congress moved to Lancaster then to York. British troops marched into the half-empty Philadelphia on September 23 to cheering Loyalist crowds.

The occupation lasted ten months. After the French entered the war on the side of the Continentals, the last British troops pulled out of Philadelphia on June 18, 1778 to help defend New York City. Continentals arrived the same day and reoccupied the city supervised by Major General Benedict Arnold, who had been appointed the city's military commander. The city government returned a week later, and the Continental Congress returned in early July. Philadelphia suffered serious inflation, causing problems especially for the poor, who were unable to buy needed goods. This led to unrest in 1779, with people blaming the upper class and Loyalists. A riot in January by sailors striking for higher wages ended up with their attacking and dismantling ships. In the Fort Wilson Riot of October 4, men attacked James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who was accused of being a Loyalist sympathizer. Soldiers broke up the riot, but five people died and seventeen were injured.

Following the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, the United States Congress moved out of Philadelphia and settled in New York City, designated as the temporary capital. Besides the Constitutional Convention in May 1787, United States politics was no longer centered in Philadelphia. Due to political compromise, Congress chose a permanent capital to be built along the Potomac River. Philadelphia was selected as the temporary United States capital for ten years starting in 1790. Congress occupied the Philadelphia County Courthouse, which became known as Congress Hall, and the Supreme Court worked at City Hall. Robert Morris donated his home at 6th and Market Street as the residence for President Washington, or the President's House (Philadelphia).

After 1787 the city's economy grew rapidly in the postwar years. Serious yellow fever outbreaks in the 1790s interrupted development. Benjamin Rush identified an outbreak in August 1793 as a yellow fever epidemic, the first in 30 years, which lasted four months. Two thousand refugees from Saint-Domingue had recently arrived in the city in flight from the slave revolution. They represented five percent of the city's total population. They likely carried the disease from the island where it was endemic, and it was rapidly transmitted by mosquito bites to other residents (this was not understood at the time). Fear of contracting the disease caused 20,000 residents to flee the city by mid-September, and some neighboring towns prohibited their entry. Trade virtually stopped; Baltimore and New York quarantined people and goods from Philadelphia. People feared entering the city or interacting with its residents. The fever finally abated at the end of October with the onset of colder weather and was declared at an end by mid-November. The death toll is believed to be 4,000 to 5,000, about a tenth of the population. Yellow fever outbreaks recurred in Philadelphia and other major ports through the nineteenth century, but none had as many fatalities as that of 1793. The 1798 epidemic in Philadelphia also prompted an exodus; an estimated 1,292 residents died.

Some French colonial refugees had brought slaves with them from Saint-Domingue, but Pennsylvania had abolished slavery in 1780; after six months' residency in the state, slaves were to be freed. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society resisted refugee efforts to change the state law and, through 1796, 500 slaves from Saint-Domingue gained freedom in the city. Because of the violence accompanying the revolution on the island, people in the city (many of whom had southern ties) and the Upper South worried about the influence of such free people of color, fearing they would encourage slave insurrections in the US.

During the city's 10 years as federal capital, members of Congress were exempt from the abolition law, but the many slaveholders in the executive and judicial branches were not. President Washington, later vice-president Thomas Jefferson and others brought slaves as domestic servants, and evaded the law by regularly shifting their slaves out of the city before the 6-month deadline. Two of Washington's slaves escaped from the President's House (Philadelphia), and he gradually replaced his slaves with German immigrants who were indentured servants. The remains of the President's House (Philadelphia) were found during excavation for a new Liberty Bell Center, leading to archeological work in 2007. In 2010, a memorial on the site opened to commemorate Washington's slaves and African Americans in Philadelphia and US history, as well as to mark the house site.

The Pennsylvania state government left Philadelphia in 1799 and the United States government left in 1800. By this time, the city had become one of the United States' busiest ports and the country's largest city, with 67,787 people living in Philadelphia and its contiguous suburbs. Philadelphia's maritime trade was interrupted by the Embargo Act of 1807 and then the War of 1812. After the war, Philadelphia's shipping industry never returned to its pre-embargo status, and New York City succeeded it as the busiest port and largest city.

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