American History and Genealogy Project

City of Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, the largest city of Pennsylvania, and the second in size and population in United States, is situated between the Delaware and the Schuylkill Rivers, extending 2 miles from the one to the other, and 4½ miles along the Delaware, 5 miles above their junction, and 120 ms by the course of the Delaware from the ocean. It is in 39° 56' 51" n. lat. and 75° 10' 05" w lon. from Greenwich; and 1° 46' 30" e. from Washington. It is 300 ms. s. w. from Boston; 86 s. w, from New York; 97 n. e. from Baltimore; 98 e. by s. Harrisburg; 138 n. e. from Washington contained in 1790, 42,500 inhabitants, in 1800 70,287; in 1810, 96,664; in 1820, 119,325; in 830, 167,811; in 1840, 220,423. Of these there were engaged in agriculture, 693; in commerce 7,912; in manufactures and trades, 24,900; navigating the ocean, rivers, &c. 2,050; learned precisions, &c. 1,549.

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The city is situated on a plain, the highest point of which is elevated 64 feet above the ordinary high water mark in the river. The city proper is nearly in the form of a parallelogram, having the Delaware on the east, the Schuylkill on the west, Vine Street on the N., ml South or Cedar Street on the s. But there are five adjoining districts which properly belong. Philadelphia, though they have incorporations and municipal authorities, entirely distinct from the city proper, and from each other. They are the Northern Liberties, Kensington, and Spring Garden on the n.; and Southward and Moyamensing on the s.

The part of the city compactly built is about 8½ miles in circumference. The two principal streets are Market or High street, which extends from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, e. and w. trough the middle of Philadelphia proper; and road-street, which runs n. and s., crossing Market-street at right angles, near the centre of the city plat. The other street s of this portion cross each other at right angles. Market or High Streets 100 feet broad, and Broad-street is 113 feet; Arch or Mulberry street is 66 feet wide; the other streets are 50 feet. The adjoining districts have not the same regularity in their plan the city proper, nor do the whole connect in one consistent and uniform plan. While the city proper has very little variety of surfaces, on the Delaware above this, and on the Schuylkill, above and below, there are many commanding situations and much varied scenery. The whole number of streets in the city and districts is over 600. There are common sewers which convey s filth of the streets into the Delaware. The uses are built with great uniformity, commodiousness, and neatness, and the streets are kept very clean.

The largest ships come up the Delaware to the city; and it is here nearly a mile wide to Camden, which lies opposite, in New Jersey. The Schuylkill is also navigable for smaller vessels the bridge; and it is here 500 feet wide. Both rivers are generally for some time frozen in the winter, which constitutes a serious obstacle to the commerce of Philadelphia. The amount of tonnage of this port in 1840, was 103,944.

Among the public buildings, that of the late United States Bank, on Chestnut Street, is conspicuous. It is after the model of the Parthenon, Athens. The building is 87 feet in front, and deep, and has in front 8 Doric columns, 4 feet 6 inches in diameter, and 27 feet high. The interior is as splendid as the exterior is imposing. It was 5 years in building, and cost $500,000; on the demise of the old bank, it was sold to its successor for $300,000. The Bank of Pennsylvania is on Second, below Chestnut Street. The entire building is 125 feet by 51. It has 2 Ionic porticoes of six columns each. The banking room is circular, 45 feet in diameter, with a dome, and lighted by a lantern in the centre. It has a fine lot in the rear, which is beautifully laid out. The United States Mint, corner of Chestnut and Juniper streets, has Ionic porticoes of more than 120 feet long on each front, and is a splendid building, first occupied in 1830. The interior has various apartments, devoted to the different processes of coining. The Merchants' Exchange, between Dock, Walnut, and Third streets, is 95 feet by 114, with a recessed portico of 4 Corinthian columns on one front; and a semi-circular portico of 8 columns on the other. It is considered as one of the most beautiful structures in the United States. The basement contains various offices, with the post-office. The great hall is embellished by paintings and ornamental devices. The above buildings are all of white marble. The Girard Bank is on Third, below Chestnut Street. Its front is of white marble, enriched with a portico with six Corinthian columns of the same material. The other sides of the building are of brick. It has extensive grounds, neatly laid out and ornamented. The U. States Naval Asylum or Marine Hospital is 336 feet in front and 175 feet deep. It has a portico in the centre of 8 Ionic columns. There are 180 dormitories, capable of lodging 400 persons. The whole is surrounded by ornamented grounds. The cost of the establishment was $300,000. The Almshouse, on the w. bank of the Schuylkill, consists of a centre building with wings, together with two detached buildings, one at each end. It has 180 acres of ground, ten of which are occupied by its enclosures. Girard College is about 1 mile from the city, is on a tract of 45 acres of ground, and consists of a centre building, including the portico, 160 feet by 218, and is entirely surrounded by a splendid colonnade, with pillars 6 feet in diameter and 55 feet high, with beautiful Corinthian capitals; and two other buildings, each 52 feet wide and 125 feet long. This establishment, solely for the education of orphan children, was founded by a bequest, for the purpose, of the late Stephen Girard, of over $2,000,000. Among the public buildings of Philadelphia, the venerable old State House in Chestnut st., erected in 1735, in which Congress sat when Independence was declared, and where the convention sat that formed the Constitution of the United States, should not be overlooked. The room in which they sat is carefully preserved without alteration. The original bell, cast many years before the declaration of independence, is preserved in the tower of the steeple, and has this inscription, "Proclaim Liberty throughout this land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." Leviticus, xxv.

Philadelphia has many public squares, none of which are very large, but many of them finely laid out and ornamented. Independence Square is directly back of the old State House, is surrounded by a brick wall, on the top of which is an iron fence, is laid out with ground walks, grass plats, and shaded with trees. Here, from the steps of the State House, the Declaration of Independence was first read to the assembled people; and here meetings are now frequently held for political purposes. Washington Square, between Walnut and Locust, Sixth and Washington streets, which is an elegant promenade, was formerly, in time of the yellow 7 fever, a burial place. It is surrounded with an iron railing, and finely ornamented with walks, trees, and shrubbery. Franklin Square is finely ornamented, and has in its centre a magnificent fountain; but was also once a cemetery of the German Society. Logan Square, and Rittenhouse Square, are also fine openings, as yet less ornamented. Penn Square, at the intersection of Broad and Market streets, was once the finest public ground in the city. It was laid in a circle, and had in its centre a fine marble building, in the form of a temple, containing a steam engine for raising the Schuylkill water. The water works have been removed, and Market and Broad streets have been run through it, dividing it into 4 parts. Among the public works of the city, the Fairmount Water Works stand pre-eminent. They are on the e. bank of the Schuylkill, 2 miles n. w. from the city. They occupy an area of 30 acres, consisting mostly of a hill, 100 feet high. On the top of the hill are 4 reservoirs, with an aggregate capacity of 22,000,000 gallons. The whole is surrounded by a substantial pale-fence, around which is a graveled walk. A dam is made across the Schuylkill, and the water from the pond moves forcing pumps, which raise the water of the river to the reservoirs, from which it is distributed in pipes over the city. The scenery at the waterworks has great variety and beauty. At the western termination of Market-street is a substantial bridge over the Schuylkill, 1,350 feet long, including the abutments, and 42 feet wide. It has 2 stone piers and 3 arches, and cost $300,000. There is a viaduct over the Schuylkill, built by the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore rail-road company which also admits the passage of ordinary carriages. These are the only bridges which cross the Schuylkill, near the city.

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Numerous steamboats and other craft afford a constant and easy communication with New York and Baltimore; and railroads in various directions, make Philadelphia a great thorough-fare. By the Pennsylvania canal, and a short railroad over the Alleghany mts., this city has a commercial connection with Pittsburgh, and the great valley of the Mississippi. There were in 1840, 184 foreign commercial and 44 commission houses, with a cap. of $2,049,501; 1,791 retail stores, with a cap. of $17,082,384; 48 lumber yards, with a cap. of $1,118,500; 2 furnaces, with a cap. of $259,050; machinery was manufactured to the amount of $915,864; hardware and cutlery, $154,400; the precious metals, $2,651,510; of various metals, $876,060; 15 woolen fac, cap. $135,100; 17 cotton fac, with 17,922 sp.; 14 printing and dyeing estab., with a total cap. of $474,000; 8 tanneries, with a cap. of $117,500; 11 distilleries, 16 breweries, with a cap. of $415,200; paints and drugs, $1,839,050; 1 glass fac. and 1 glass cutting estab., with a cap. of $23,500; 6 potteries, with a cap. of $24,000; 12 sugar refineries produced $890,000; 6 paper fac. produced $31,250; 12 rope walks, with a cap. of $82,900; 1 saw m., 1 flouring m., 1 grist m., cap. $8,000; furniture to the amount of $526,200; 808 brick and stone houses, and 62 wooden houses, cost $2,751,383; 46 printing offices, 12 binderies, 8 daily, 16 weekly, 7 semi-weekly newspapers, and 26 periodicals, employed 911 persons, with a cap. of $252,600. Total cap. in manufac. $8,796,998. There were 5 colleges, with 737 students, 109 academies and grammar schools, with 7,610 students, 167 common and primary schools, with 22,678 scholars.

The benevolent institutions of Philadelphia are exceedingly numerous. Among them the Pennsylvania Hospital was founded in 1750, through the instrumentality of Dr. Franklin and others. The state granted £2,000, and the same sum was, by stipulation, raised by subscription; the Proprietaries made a further donation, and the building was commenced in 1755. In a fine area in front of the hospital, stands a full length statue of William Penn, in bronzed lead. This institution is well managed; and they have recently erected a separate institution for the in-sane. The House of Refuge for juvenile delinquents; the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb; the Institution for the Blind, and the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, are useful establishments.

There are in the City and Liberties 13 banks, with an aggregate capital of $14,550,000, besides the United States Bank of Pennsylvania, whose capital was $35,000,000; and 23 insurance companies.

The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1791, by the union of two previous institutions the first of which was instituted in 1755. It has 14 instructors, 116 students, and 5,000 volume; in its library. The most flourishing department is the medical, which has 7 professors and over 400 students, and is the most distinguished institution of the kind in the United States. Jefferson Medical College was formerly connected with the college at Cannonsburg, but is now independent, founded in 1824; it has 7 professors and 145 students. The medical department of Pennsylvania College, founded in 1833, has 6 professors and 60 students. The American Philosophical Society was founded in 1740, chiefly through the exertions of Dr. Franklin. In 1769 it was united with another similar society. It has an excellent library and a collection of minerals. The Academy of Natural Sciences, founded in 1817, has a library of over 9,000 volumes. The Franklin Institute was founded in 1824, and consists of 3,000 manufacturers, artisans, and mechanics. The Athenaeum, founded in 1815, has a good library and reading room. The Mercantile Library, formed in 1822, has 5 or 6,000 volumes, chiefly relating to commerce and its kindred subjects. The Historical Society has issued many useful publications relating to the earl history of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Library Company, established through the influence of Dr. Franklin, has a library of over 42,000 volumes.

There are about 100 churches in the city of which the Presbyterians have 24; the Episcopalians 19; the Methodists 19; the Baptists 17; the Roman Catholics 6, &c.

Among the places of amusement there are 4 or 5 theatres, a number of public gardens, and the Philadelphia Museum, the best in the United States.

The government of the city proper is in the hands of a mayor, a select council of 12, and common council of 20 members. One third of the select and the whole of the common council are chosen annually by the people, and the councils elect a mayor. The aldermen, who are in number, are appointed by the governor to act with the mayor, as judges, during good behavior and the aldermen act as justices of the pear The whole legislative power is in the round of which the select council is a kind of senate.

Southwark is governed by 15 commissioners and was incorporated in 1794. The Northern Liberties, incorporated in 1803, is governed by commissioners.

Philadelphia was first surveyed and regular in 1682. It had previously been in possession the Swedes, some of whom came into the country, bordering on Delaware Bay, as early as 1627. It was named after a city in Asia Minor, and the plan is said to have been suggested by that ancient Babylon, and according to the original design of William Penn, its original founder a proprietor, was designed to have equaled that ancient capital in extent; but the idea was soon abandoned and the charter of 1701 restricted to the present boundaries of the city proper. Penn's country residence was at Pennsburg Manor, above Bristol, in which was a large Hall of Audience, where he held treaties with Indians; and the oak arm-chair in which sat, is now in the Pennsylvania Hospital. The first Congress assembled in Philadelphia, Sept. 5th, 1774, and adopted a declaration of rights; July 4th, 1776, the declaration of independent in the autumn of 1776, retired to Baltimore; Sept. 26th, 1777, the city fell into the hands of the British, who occupied it until the 18th of June following. May 17th, 1787, a convention met here, and in Sept. 17th, following, agreed on a, constitution for the United States. In 1793 and 1798 the yellow fever raged in the city.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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