History in Philadelphia
Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by Englishman, William Penn. Mr. Penn was owed money by King Charles II, and instead of paying Penn this money, the king gave Penn the whole of Pennsylvania.
Penn believed Pennsylvania beautiful and a great place in which to settle. He is said to have had rather good relations with the native Lenni-Lenape (or Delaware) Indians that already called the area home. Penn originally stopped to settle at the site of today's city of Chester. He founded a village called Upland there. However, Penn felt the area was too full of Swedish settlers to spread out. Thus, he and a team moved north about 13 miles to a peninsula between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. He felt this was a fine place for a city. Thus, Philadelphia was born.
Penn intended for Philadelphia to be a "greene countrie towne" that would allow people to have about an acre of land each and the space to grow food, etc. However, Penn returned to England for years and left management of his colony to others that grew disenchanted with his absence, yet insistance on doing things his way. He returned to Philadelphia in the late 1600s, fatter and older, with his wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn and his daughter, Letitia.
After staying only a short time, Penn returned permanently to England where his health declined and he died in 1701.
The city, in contrast to Penn's hopes, became a densely-settled place. Instead of acre lots, lots were cut up into thin properties filled with connected houses and buildings. This allowed people to make money on rents in a more efficient manner. From day one, Philadelphia was required to be a city of masonry buildings - thus, the city never had a horrific fire in the way of London or Boston, as wood structures never predominated.
The city spread north to south along the Delaware well into the early 1800s. Penn had his surveyor, Thomas Holme, lay out a city of 90 degree gridded streets. The city was two miles square and extended from Delaware to Schuylkill Rivers. The northern boundary was Vine Street, and the southern boundary was South Street. This remained the city's official boundaries until 1855, when the city completed an annexation of all Philadelphia County. This process made the city emerge as the largest municipality in area, at 135 square miles, at that time. The city had farms within its borders until the mid-1950s.
Philadelphia became "Workshop of the World" in the 1800s and early 1900s. It was America's industrial powerhouse. Where New York was the financial and commercial capital after outgrowing Philadelphia in the 1830s, and Boston was an academic center, Philadelphia made things and lots of them. Name a product and Philadelphia made some version of it.
In the fashion of its English roots, Philadelphia's houses were rowhomes, connected both sides, on narrow streets. This allowed even low-income families to have their own house. It has always had one of the highest rates of homeownership among America's cities. Variations of the rowhouse in more suburban styles occurred as people began moving to outer areas of the city, away from factories or run-down sections thanks to public trolley service.
The people of Philadelphia were ovewhelmingly English or Scots-Irish in descent until the late 1800s. At that time, from the 1850s on, Irish immigrants flooded the city. Later, in the 1880s, Italians became coming in large numbers. In this way, Philadelphing came to resemble most all of the major northeastern American cities. It changed from a Protestant, Anglo city, to one of more various European groups, and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Many Jewish immigrants came to Philadelphia, setting up a large Jewish presence.