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Philadelphia City History and Information

Philadelphia is located on the East Coast of the United States in the mid-Atlantic state of Pennsylvania.  The city itself has 1.4 million residents, while the metropolitan area has over 6 million - in both areas it ranks as the country's sixth largest city.  Philly is about 2 hours from New York City, 3 hours from Washington, D.C., 1 hour from the Pocono Mountains and 1.5 hours from Atlantic City and other New Jersey beach towns.

The city of Philadelphia was founded by William Penn of England as a refuge for the religious organization to which he belonged, called the Society of Friends or the Quakers.  They were persecuted in England, and because King Charles II owed Penn's father a large debt, the king gave Penn a land grant to the area now known as Pennsylvania (which means "Penn's Woods"). Penn founded the city on the virtue of tolerance and welcomed people of all nations and religions to his colony.  He even paid the Native Americans for the land before settling it instead of fighting with them over it.  With it's central location in Great Britain's new American colonies, easy access to natural resources, and welcoming attitude, Philadelphia quickly became the largest city in England's New World.

These things also led to greater and greater dissatisfaction with British rule and the role of the city in American independence. In the 1770s Philadelphia hosted the First and the Second Continental Congresses, resulting in the American colonies' Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The city continued to serve as the seat of the Revolutionary War. Then in 1787 the Constitutional Convention drafted the federal Constitution here, establishing the United States of America, and Philadelphia became the new country's first capital city.

As the United States grew and expanded, other cities rose to prominence. Philadelphia continued to increase in size and population as it absorbed many of the ethnic neighborhoods established around the original city limits.  Even today as one of the largest cities in the U.S., Philadelphians identify with their local neighborhood as well as the city as a whole.

Philadelphia is situated between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.  The downtown area is laid out according to Penn's plan in a grid pattern. Named streets run north-south and numbered streets run east-west. This makes it very easy to explore on foot and one of the most walkable historic areas in the country. Also according to Penn's wishes, Philadelphia is full of green - there are small parks in the downtown area, trees line streets throughout the city, and the Fairmount Park system is one of the largest urban parks in the world.

There have been many famous Philadelphians over the years.  Perhaps the most famous ever is Benjamin Franklin.  Franklin lived during the 1700s and is one of the U.S.'s founding fathers, present at both Continental Congresses and the Constitutional Convention.  He also helped broker the Peace Treaty that ended the American Revolutionary War and served as the country's ambassador to France. In addition, Ben Franklin was an inventor (bifocals and the lightning rod, among other inventions), publisher (Poor Richard's Almanac and The Pennsylvania Gazette), philosopher ("A penny saved is a penny earned"), community organizer (he founded volunteer fire companies, the first public lending library anywhere, and The University of Pennsylvania), and a scientist (he "discovered" electricity). Other notables from Philadelphia include: Walt Whitman, poet; Marian Anderson, opera vocalist; Grace Kelly, actress and Princess of Monaco; Bill Cosby, comedian; Kevin Bacon, actor; Will Smith, rap artist and actor; and M. Night Shyamalan, director.