William Penn founded Philadelphia in 1682 as the capital of Pennsylvania. By 1710, this simple Quaker town had grown into the largest city in the colonies. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the city was among the largest in the entire British Empire as well as the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city in North America. Furthermore, Philadelphia was the biggest port on the coast and located approximately in the middle of the colonies.The city boasted 6,000 houses, 33 churches, 10 newspapers, and 300 shops laid out in an orderly grid pattern along the banks of the Delaware River.1 While typical colonial streets were made of dirt, many of Philadelphia's streets were made of cobblestone or brick and lined with street lamps to light the city at night. The State House, where the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention met, was an impressive brick building constructed to house the colonial government of Pennsylvania.
1. What natural features form the east-west boundaries of the city?
2. How would you describe Philadelphia at the time of the Revolutionary War?
3. Do you think Philadelphia was a logical place for the delegates to meet? Explain your answer.
4. Why might this 1777 map of Philadelphia have included a drawing of the State House? What do you think this suggests about the importance of the building?
1Joy Hakim, From Colonies to Country: 1710-1791 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 158.
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