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Philadelphia, situated at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, was settled in 1681 by William Markham, who was leading a group of colonists sent by William Penn. Philadelphia grew rapidly and within four years had a population of 7,000.

In the 18th century two Continental Congresses were held in Philadelphia (1774-76) and in 1790 became the second capital of the United States. Over the next two hundred years Philadelphia became one of the most industrial areas in the world producing ships, rolling stock, electronic equipment and textiles. Philadelphia has a population of over 2,000,000 and is the largest city in Pennsylvania.

Whenever anything extraordinary is done in American municipal politics, whether for good or for evil, you can trace it almost invariably to one man. The people do not do it. Neither do the "gangs", "combines", or political parties. These are but instruments by which bosses (not leaders; we Americans are not led, but driven) rule the people, and commonly sell them out. But there are at least two forms of the autocracy which has supplanted the democracy here as it has everywhere it has been tried. One is that of the organized majority by which, as in Tammamy Hall in New York and the Republican machine in Philadelphia, the boss has normal control of more than half the voters. The other is that of the adroitly managed minority. The "good people" are herded into parties and stupefied with convictions and a name, Republican or Democrat; while the "bad people" are so organized or interested by the boss that he can wield their votes to enforce terms with party managers and decide elections. St. Louis is a conspicuous example of this form. Minneapolis is another.

Historic Philadelphia

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    Philadelphia - History

    exploring philadelphia's urban landscape

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    New Exhibition Maps the History of North Philadelphia

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    History of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and, at the time of the American Revolution, was the largest and most important city in America. Founded by William Penn as a place of religious tolerance, its spirit infused the early steps towards independence.

    The first European settlers on the site were Swedes, who established a community at the mouth of the Schuykill not later than 1643. England, however, established its control over the entire region, and in 1681, King Charles II made William Penn a grant of land that became Pennsylvania.

    An advance group was sent that year, and Penn followed in 1682. They established Philadelphia in the southeast corner of the colony, following a plan for the town's development. Philadephia's guiding principle was tolerance towards all faiths. Philadelphia attracted people from all over Europe, with such Quakers as Penn especially well represented. The city developed a thriving trade with the West Indies and soon became the largest and most important city in the colonies. It received its city charter in 1701.

    Philadelphia's most famous citizen in the 18th century was Benjamin Franklin, widely considered to be one of that century's foremost scientists, in addition to one of the guiding lights of the Revolution. The First and Second Continental congresses were held in Philadelphia, and the city served as the nation's unofficial capital throughout the War of Independence, except for the period between September 26, 1777, and June 18, 1778, when it was held by the British. Following the war, the convention that produced the Constitution (text) was held in Philadelphia.

    By the time of the first census in 1790, New York had passed Philadelphia in size. During the first half of the 19th century, important suburbs grew up around Philadelphia, including Kensington, Moyamensing, Northern Liberties, Southwark, and Spring Garden, which ranked among the country's top 100 places in the national census.

    By mid-century, Philadelphia had dropped to fourth place in population. In 1854, the Pennsylvania legislature redrew the boundaries of Philadelphia to include the entire county, which boosted the city's population back to second. It held that position until overtaken by Chicago in the census of 1890.

    In 1876, Philadelphia hosted one of the country's first international expositions, to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. Held at Fairmont Park from May 10 to November 10, the exposition displayed industries from 50 countries.

    Philadelphia, cradle of America's dream of freedom, is home to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (narrative), great documents that cried out, “Let Freedom Ring,” like the Liberty Bell. Amidst the ordinary citizens of Philadelphia, gathered in the humble Carpenter's Hall on Chestnut Street, the Colonial Fathers gave voice and life to those freedoms at the First Continental Congress.

    Many historic sites in Philadelphia have been restored or rebuilt to help preserve the nation’s heritage as a free people. Providing fitting homage to these places, a place of hallowed ground was sanctified, the Independence National Historical Park. On these grounds is Independence Hall, where the Declaration and the Constitution reside. The home of Betsy Ross still stands on Arch Street.

    Philadelphia also is one of America's leading cultural centers. The University of Philadelphia, established in 1740, occupies a 120-acre campus in West Philadelphia. The Academy of Natural Science, the oldest institution of its kind in America, was founded in 1805. The Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest zoological garden in the nation, houses 1,600 rare and exotic animals. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, founded in 1876, displays some of the world's finest Impressionist art. Philadelphia's own Washington Monument stands in front of the art museum as if to guard the collections within.

    Philadelphia gave much to the War for Independence. It was the site of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, dating to 1762. In 1775, it outfitted the first ships of the Colonial Navy. It continued to support the Navy at its Southwark location through the Civil War, but continued growth forced it to move to League Island in 1876. The Philadelphia Navy Yard ceased operations on September 27, 1996.

    Department of Records

    The Philadelphia City Archives preserves historical City records and provides access to the public. The Archives was established in 1952 under the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.

    Contact the Archives

    You can contact us at (215) 685-9401 or [email protected]

    Visit the Archives

    Hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    Appointment times: Monday, Thursday, and Friday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

    The Archives is located at:

    548 Spring Garden Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19123

    The Archives is accessible by public transportation. There are also designated parking spots for visitors in the Target parking lot on 6th Street, south of the Archives.

    What's in the Archives

    The Archives contains 20,000 cubic feet of holdings with historical, administrative, legal, research, and cultural value. The holdings cover a wide variety of subjects dating back to the late 17th century.

    The Archives provides access to many different types of records, including:

    • Genealogical records
    • Real estate records
    • Ordinances and other City Council records
    • City Solicitor’s opinions
    • Mayor’s files
    • Charters of incorporation
    • Minutes of boards and commissions
    • Court records
    • Finance Department records
    • City Controller and Sinking Fund Commission
    • Home Rule Charter Commission records.

    Collections of interest

    Vital records, naturalizations, and taxes

    Type Dates
    Registrations of birth and death records* July 1, 1860 to June 30, 1915
    Cemetery returns 1806 to June 30, 1860
    Marriage records July 1, 1860 to December 31, 1885
    Marriage records from the Orphans Court Division 1886 to 1915
    Divorce records Before 1914
    Naturalizations of the City and County Courts 1794 to 1904, 1914 to 1930
    Records of property taxes 1773 to 1851

    *Includes some late registrations filed under an 1867 supplement to the vital statistics act, with births dating to 1829.

    Property and building records

    Type Dates
    Deeds of Philadelphia County 1683 to 1955
    Mortgages of Philadelphia County 1736 to 1963
    Philadelphia building permits and select building plans 1889 to 1986
    City directories 1785 to 1936

    Legal and institutional records

    Type Dates
    Criminal court records 1750s to 1950s
    Civil court records 1757 to 1913
    Police records 1850s to 1980s
    Prison records 1790 to 1948
    Blockley Almshouse records 1835 to 1920
    Records of the Almshouse Hospital, Philadelphia General Hospital 1751 to 1977

    Other records of interest

    Type Dates
    Personnel Department roster cards 1890s to 1980s
    Police roster and roll books 1854 to 1925
    Film collection 1940s to 1980s
    Photograph collection 1855 to 1980s

    Charting a Path to Resistance – an interactive mural

    Stretching from the Archives foyer through the reception area and along the length of the public research room, Charting a Path to Resistance by local artist Talia Greene is an interactive mural that exposes the racism and discrimination of our collective past and celebrates the acts of resistance that countered it. The design takes inspiration from historic maps in the Archives which chart the development of Philadelphia’s streets and conversion of natural waterways to sewers.

    The primary Archives document displayed is a redlining map of Philadelphia, created by a private company and shared with the City in 1944. Archives documents at the beginning of the piece tell viewers the story of housing discrimination through the 1960s. As the mural moves into the research room, viewers move back in time, with stories of resistance to housing discrimination making way for stories of resistance to slavery.

    To learn more, download the free app.

    Related resources


    The Department of Records has over two million photographs dating back to 1855. Of these, 30,000 are accessible online at

    Land records

    PhilaDox is a land records research portal covering 1974 to the present. You can search documents for free and view watermarked copies. You need a subscription to print.

    You must pay for a subscription to use the search.

    Historic streets index

    The Historic street index allows you to search the name of a Philadelphia street and see its location and any name changes it has undergone.

    Share All sharing options for: The day Philadelphia bombed its own people

    As the smoke rose from 6221 Osage Avenue, Philadelphia residents watched through their windows or television screens in a state of stunned disbelief. Their city had just bombed its own people.

    On the evening of May 13, 1985, longstanding tensions between MOVE, a black liberation group, and the Philadelphia Police Department erupted horrifically. That night, the city of Philadelphia dropped a satchel bomb, a demolition device typically used in combat, laced with Tovex and C-4 explosives on the MOVE organization, who were living in a West Philadelphia rowhome known to be occupied by men, women, and children. It went up in unextinguished flames. Eleven people were killed, including five children and the founder of the organization. Sixty-one homes were destroyed, and more than 250 citizens were left homeless.

    A view of Osage Avenue in Philadelphia, just two days after a shootout and bombing between police and MOVE. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

    For the next several years, the confrontation with MOVE would be remembered as an ordeal that transformed the fabric of the city. The show of force, unjustified to many, solidified mistrust between Philadelphia’s residents and government. “The story is a parable of sorts it’s a parable of how the unthinkable comes to happen,” said Jason Osder, the director of Let the Fire Burn, a documentary about the bombing. “It’s a tragedy. In my opinion, everyone who was an adult in the city failed that day . collectively, the whole city failed.”

    MOVE, not an acronym, was a political and religious organization whose principles were anti-government, anti-technology, and anti-corporation. Its creator, John Africa, born Vincent Leaphart, was a West Philadelphia native and Korean War veteran whose ideology combined black revolutionary ideas with environmental and animal rights, as well as a back-to-nature movement.

    John Africa, founder of MOVE, leaves a federal courthouse in Philadelphia, after being acquitted on weapons and conspiracy charges on July 23, 1981. Bill Ingraham/AP

    Members of MOVE gather in front of their house in the Powelton Village neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1978. Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images

    MOVE was founded in 1972 and still exists today, though its membership numbers are unknown. Members lived communally and described themselves as a family, changing their last names to Africa out of reverence for their founder and for the continent. In nonviolent but disruptive demonstrations, members protested at zoos, pet stores, and political rallies the group believed in composting, homeschooling, and a diet of raw foods, and spoke out against war and police brutality. They maintained a complicated relationship with Philadelphia residents some sympathized with their mission, while others found their lifestyle to be disruptive.

    Members frequently had run-ins with authorities. In 1978, MOVE engaged in a 15-month standoff after then-Mayor Frank Rizzo, notorious for a volatile relationship with black residents and activist groups, ordered the group to be removed from their home. The confrontation ended in the death of a police officer for which nine members of MOVE, nicknamed the MOVE 9, were controversially convicted and given life sentences.

    Four years later, MOVE relocated to the quiet, largely middle-class African American residence on Osage Avenue. Their neighbors continually complained to the city about trash around their rowhouse, confrontations with residents, and that MOVE members broadcast sometimes obscene political messages by bullhorn. After they’d spent three years on Osage Avenue, then-Mayor Wilson Goode, the first African American mayor of Philadelphia, gave the order to evict them. What began as a door-to-door evacuation of the neighborhood the night before became a violent, day-long ordeal no one in the community could have foreseen.

    MOVE members hold sawed-off shotguns and automatic weapons as they stand in front of their barricaded headquarters on May 21, 1977. AP

    Mayor W. Wilson Goode, center, leaves court after testifying at the trial of MOVE member, Ramona Africa, on January 25, 1986. Peter Morgan/AP

    MOVE member Ramona Africa after being sentenced on April 14, 1986, for her role in the fatal confrontation with police on May 13, 1985. Peter Morgan/AP

    Only two people survived the bombing — Ramona Africa, then 29, and a child, Birdie Africa, then 13, later known as Michael Moses Ward both were badly burned. Despite two grand jury investigations, a civil suit, and a commission final report that cited the bombing as “reckless, ill-conceived, and hastily-approved,” no one was ever criminally charged for the attack. Survivor Ramona Africa immediately went on to serve seven years in prison on rioting and conspiracy charges for arrest warrants from before the bombing.

    Neighbors returned to shoddy construction in 1986, and by the early 2000s, two-thirds of the neighborhood was bought out by the city. Today, the houses are largely vacant. The bombing, now deemed one of the worst tragedies in the history of Philadelphia, lives on in the memories of the city’s residents. A few years later, the Waco siege standoff between law enforcement and a Texas religious sect would sear itself into the country’s consciousness. The MOVE bombing remains largely forgotten nationally.

    Mattie Cloves, 80 (right), who claims to be first black person to have moved onto the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in Philadelphia, sits on her porch with her daughter Nan Chaniey on June 24, 1996. Eleven years after officials dropped a bomb on the MOVE house and let the resulting fire burn, a federal jury found the city and two former top officials liable for the deadly incident, which also destroyed Cloves’s residence. Sabina Pierce/AP

    Based on testimonies, interviews, and retellings from then and now by people who lived it, here’s the tale of how the fateful tragedy unfolded and changed Philadelphia forever. Some quotes have been condensed for clarity.

    Diane J., a resident of the neighborhood: I went to hang out at the home of my friend’s in-laws that day. It was a beautiful day outside, a beautiful neighborhood. They were out of town and we went to watch the dog. We got there early and hadn’t been in the house very long. The police knocked on the door and told us everyone had to leave. There was a swarm of police officers outside — we had no idea what was going on. They told us it was an investigation of the MOVE people on the block over and we could come back later. So we took the dog and left.

    Akhen Wilson, then a next-door neighbor of MOVE: The cops evacuated our block the night before. A lot of families went to shelters or hotels. My dad took us to a condo he started renting that week, because my parents were through with the situation. We took stuff to stay overnight and left everything else in the house.

    Andrea Walls, writer and resident of the neighborhood: That morning, there was an announcement the police commissioner made over a bullhorn. I’ll never forget it.

    Gregore Sambor, then-Philadelphia police commissioner (in testimony): With the bullhorn, I read the message .

    Ramona Africa, lone adult survivor of bombing (in 2015 interview with PressTV): Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor came out and said “Attention MOVE, this is America. You have to abide by the laws and rules of [the United States]”, words to that effect. I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by that. After they made that announcement, they didn’t just try to wait us out or anything. What was the hurry?

    Albert Revel, then-Philadelphia police sergeant (in testimony): The tactical plan as I understood it was to remove the MOVE people, all the people from the house safely … by causing a diversion on the roof, inserting the insertion teams on either side of the properties, and by then, inducing an amount of CS gas in a sufficient concentration to make those people come out of the house.

    Ramona Africa, lone adult survivor of bombing (in 2010 interview with Angola News): They aimed four water cannons at our home. We were all in the basement and the water was just pouring down on us for the longest time. Mind you, this is when there was no fire at all.

    Michael Moses Ward, lone child survivor, also known as Birdie Africa (in testimony): We was in the cellar for a while … and tear gas started coming in and we got the blankets. And they was wet. And then we put them over our heads and started laying down.

    Angie Lofton, a resident of the neighborhood: I went to work and turned on the news. I saw clouds of tear gas and the gunfire started. It was rapid-fire. I couldn’t believe it. I had heard the MOVE kids were supposed to be picked up by authorities at Cobbs Creek Parkway before any action was supposed to happen. It was horrifying to know that they were still in the house.

    Wilson Goode, then-mayor of Philadelphia (during a press conference): There was no way to avoid it. No way to extract ourselves from that situation except by armed confrontation.

    William Brown III, chair of the Special Investigation MOVE Commission: It was clear that the MOVE people didn’t have any automatic weapons. They later found only a couple of shotguns and a rifle [in the MOVE house]. Yet the police fired so many rounds of ammunition — at least 10,000 — into that building during the day that they had to send up to the police headquarters to get more.

    Andrea Walls, writer and a resident of the neighborhood: How could they decide to fire 10,000 rounds of ammunition into a building with women and children? It was absolutely insane.

    Ron Archer, a resident of the neighboring block: Helicopters were everywhere. I was standing at the corner and I climbed on top of the mailbox so I could see better. I saw a bomb drop. Then it felt like someone had pushed me.

    Michael Moses Ward, also known as Birdie Africa: That’s when the big bomb went off. It shook the whole house up.

    Arnett Woodall, a resident and current store owner in the neighborhood: We were playing basketball at a recreational center in the area. When the explosion went off, it shook the ground.

    Gregore Sambor, then-Philadelphia police commissioner (in testimony): … I had recommended that the best way was to use an explosive entry device to blow a hole in the roof to insert gas in through the roof, and also to dislodge the bunker.

    Frank Powell, retired Philadelphia police lieutenant, known for dropping the bomb (in 1985 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer): The bunker was not destroyed. There was a hole in the roof, a football-shaped hole about 1 foot wide, 2 feet long. I looked down in the hole. There was no fire and no smoke. … About 15 to 20 minutes later, I started to receive information from the stakeout post that there was a fire …

    Ramona Africa, lone adult survivor of the bombing: We felt the house shake, but it hadn’t occurred to us that they dropped a bomb. Pretty quickly, it got smokier and smokier. At first we thought it was the tear gas, but then it got thicker. … It started getting hot in there. The house was on fire.

    Michael Africa Jr., MOVE member and son of Debbie and Michael Africa Sr.: I was living with my grandmother at the time. We were 4 miles away, but I could see the black smoke in the sky as if it was down the street. . I went in and saw my grandmother and aunts watching the news. They were all huddled up together and they were all crying. I looked at the TV and I said, “That looks like our house”. And my aunt looked at me and said, “It is.”

    Akhen Wilson, then a next-door neighbor of MOVE: We watched the bombing on TV at the condo. Our house started to go up in flames. I went out on the balcony and I could see the smoke billowing from across the city.

    Angie Lofton, a resident of the neighborhood: At the back of our house, the kids playing in their yards were yelling, “Ouch! Ouch!” because they were getting singed from ash falling.

    Wilson Goode, then-mayor of Philadelphia: You can always second-guess any decision. The one thing we did that went wrong was when the percussion grenade was dropped, it caused a fire. That was an accident. I was as saddened by that as anyone else.

    Diane J., a resident of the neighborhood: We went to my friend’s house, and later that day we saw the bombing on the news. We were devastated. I was angry, heartbroken. It was a beautiful home. They were travelers. They had things that were priceless. And they lost everything. Everything.

    Angie Lofton, a resident of the neighborhood: Everyone’s question at the time was why weren’t they putting the fire out. They were just gonna let the fire burn. Later we’d find out that the police commissioner and fire commissioner agreed to use it as a tactical plan.

    William Brown III, chair of the Special Investigation MOVE Commission: We were told by the experts that when the fire first started, you could have put it out with a bucket of water.

    Andrea Walls, writer and resident of the neighborhood: The building is on fire, with firemen on the scene, and everyone agrees not to fight the fire and to allow 60 homes to burn. How can this happen? How could no one say, wait, hold up, something’s not right. Y’all are serving misdemeanor warrants and this is where we end up at the end of the day? What does it mean? For years, I’ve been trying to understand. And I came to the conclusion that we have been absorbing all of this anti-black rhetoric, all of this anti-black imagery, our entire lives. We’re just all absorbing this expectation that black life and black bodies have very little value.

    Angie Lofton, a resident of the neighborhood: It started spreading only two blocks from where we lived I stayed awake that night praying it wouldn’t spread to ours.

    James Berghaier, retired Philadelphia police officer (in 2010 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer): That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a large fire. The heat would pop the glass … you couldn’t interpret if it was a gunshot or not. We heard over the radio that they were coming out.

    Ramona Africa, lone adult survivor of bombing: We immediately tried to get our children, our animals, ourselves out of the burning building. We were hollering, “We’re coming out!” [The cops] immediately started shooting, trying to prevent anybody from coming out of that house. We were forced back in at least twice.

    William Brown III, chairperson of the Special Investigation “MOVE” Commission: Police officers denied using gunfire, though it is unclear why MOVE members would choose to run back into the fire.

    James Berghaier, retired Philadelphia police officer: Out of the smoke, the first person I saw was Ramona. Then I see who was later identified as Birdie come out of the fire … I ran out and scooped him underneath his left arm.

    Angie Lofton, a resident of the neighborhood: I had never seen anything like it. I had seen the Vietnam War coverage on TV but never my neighborhood in flames. When I watered the plants the day after the bombing, they had burn holes.

    Diane J., a resident of the neighborhood: I didn’t know until later there were people still in the MOVE house. I didn’t know that my friend’s husband who was a MOVE member was killed in that fire.

    Debbie Africa, member of MOVE 9 released from prison in 2018: A prison guard came to our cells and told Janine, Janet, and Sue, “They just had a firebombing at your house and your children are dead.” I don’t blame her because it was her job to tell us. But we couldn’t believe it. It was just horrible and unbelievable.

    Michael Africa Sr., member of MOVE 9 released from prison in 2018: Even while watching the footage it was unbelievable. Unbelievable something like that could happen, that a government would do that to its own people.

    Akhen Wilson, then a next-door neighbor of MOVE: In ’86, it was a 180-degree [turn]. The neighbors were all excited to get back into our homes and back to the new normal. There were a lot of people displaced during that time … people returned with hope. They took tragedy and learned from it.

    Ron Archer, a resident of the neighboring block: The stab to the heart was when the buyout happened, when the old people left. I want to say that 90 percent of those people took it. It was a close-knit community.

    Diane J., a resident of the neighborhood: Folks just moved on from the community because it was easier. But the memories will always be there.

    Gerald Renfrow, a resident on the block (in 2019 interview with WHYY): My hope is that it will be, once again, a beautiful community. And maybe once again, we can be extended family. We’ll be getting to know our new neighbors, they’ll be getting to know us.

    Arnett Woodall, a resident and store owner in the neighborhood: We must rebuild and remember that day. We must remember the children who died, the lives that were lost. It’s a black eye on the city we can’t let them forget.

    MOVE members’ children listen to speeches during a commemorative march for the victims of the 1985 MOVE bombing and fire on May 14, 2005, in Philadelphia. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

    Lindsey Norward is a Brooklyn- and Philadelphia-based journalist who writes about history, culture, and media.

    Millions turn to Vox to understand what’s happening in the news. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower through understanding. Financial contributions from our readers are a critical part of supporting our resource-intensive work and help us keep our journalism free for all. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today from as little as $3.

    Philadelphia Cream Cheese's lasting popularity

    Bon Appétit reports yet another marketing maneuver to capitalize on the surging success of the new product. Not only was Philadelphia Cream Cheese "one of the first branded food products in America," according to author Stella Parks, but recipes for "Philadelphia cake" began to be published in various magazines in the early 1990s, advertising a new dessert that called for five-and-a-half packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese to create. Of course, this was the classic cheesecake that we now know and love, and it propelled the product (you might even say "spread it") even farther into the realms of home cooking and entertaining. Philadelphia Cream Cheese was soon positioned as an absolute necessity in kitchens across the country. Beyond cheesecake, Philadelphia Cream Cheese also then became a staple for dips, desserts, sushi, and more.

    Philadelphia Cream Cheese is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. There are some changes in the 2020 version, of course, including salt, xanthan gum, guar gum, and carob bean gum, according to Today, which have helped increase the product's stability and shelf life. Furthermore, Edible Manhattan notes that, according to the USDA, cream cheese must be at least 33 percent fat. Beyond these customizations, though, the product we use today is pretty much what it was over a century ago.

    Nowadays, there are myriad brands, flavors, and variations of cream cheese, but when it comes to baking and/or cooking with cream cheese, Philadelphia still reigns supreme.

    The death toll from a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia hits 100 on October 11, 1793. By the time it ended, 5,000 people were dead. Yellow fever, or American plague as it was known at the time, is a viral disease that begins with fever and muscle pain. Next, victims often . read more

    On September 28, 1918, a Liberty Loan parade in Philadelphia prompts a huge outbreak of Spanish flu in the city. By the time the pandemic ended, an estimated 20 million to 50 million people were dead worldwide. Influenza is a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory . read more

    Philadelphia - History

    empirelib version:

    Welcome to the Philadelphia Department of Records search site for Historical Land and Vital Records.

    Contained within this system are digital images of Philadelphia deed documents dating from 1683 through 1974 and some vital records types, such as births, deaths, marriage and naturalization records, from selected time periods between 1794 through 1915.

    Access to the site is by User ID and Password provided by subscription. Please login using your User ID and Password, or proceed to the User Signup page to subscribe.

    The Records Department has striven hard to build a site that ultimately will be very useful to searchers. It is a work in progress. Your comments, suggestions and feedback are needed and encouraged. Please select the "Send Comments to Webmaster" link to send us a message.

    Note: Some images or reels of images may be missing from the online collection presented in this system. The Department of Records cannot guarantee that all records available will be found via online search. For the date ranges indicated above, more than 95% of all available records are contained in this system. By purchasing an access subscription to this system, the subscriber understands that access is being granted to all records currently available in the system. In the instance of a missing record, the subscriber is requested to contact the Department of Records to purchase the record separately. If you have questions about whether this site will be suitable for your research purposes, please contact the Records Department at 215-686-2261 prior to subscribing.

    A Streetcar Suburb in the City, 1854-1907

    Following the Consolidation Act of 1854, West Philadelphia evolved into a desirable, even fashionable, suburb within the city.

    Transportation innovations and real estate speculation enabled a new residential West Philadelphia to emerge. In the second half of the nineteenth century the building of institutions of higher learning was noteworthy, and new residents of West Philadelphia contributed in the own ways, most notably by establishing houses of worship that became neighborhood bedrocks. The blossoming of the area after 1854 did not just reverberate locally a series of events in West Philadelphia brought national attention.

    Watch the video: Is this the end of Philadelphia? Why is Philly so bad? What happened to Philadelphia? (July 2022).


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    4. Rooney

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