Philadelphia

Steel on Wheels Tour Date #2: Philadelphia - December 16, 2010

History of Philadelphia

The history of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, goes back to 1682, when the city was founded by William Penn. Before then, the area was inhabited by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians and Swedish settlers who arrived in the area in the early 17th century. Philadelphiaquickly grew into an important colonial city and during the American Revolution 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. At the beginning of the 19th century, the federal and state governments left Philadelphia, but the city remained the cultural and financial center of the country. Philadelphia became one of the first U.S. industrial centers and the city contained a variety of industries, the largest being textiles.

After the American Civil War Philadelphia's government was controlled by a corrupt Republican political machine and by the beginning of the 20th Century Philadelphia was described as "corrupt and contented." Various reform efforts slowly changed city government with the most significant in 1950 where a new city charter strengthened the position of mayor and weakened the Philadelphia City Council. At the same time Philadelphia moved its support from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, which has been predominant in local politics for many decades. The city's population began to decline in the 1950s as mostly white and middle class families left for the suburbs. Many of Philadelphia's houses were in poor condition and lacked modernized utilities, and gang and mafia warfare plagued the city. Revitalization and gentrification of certain neighborhoods started bringing people back 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 that has slowed the population decline.