History of Philadelphia and Timeline of Philadelphia An 18th-century map of Philadelphia, circa Before Europeans arrived, the Philadelphia area was home to the Lenape Delaware Indians in the village of Shackamaxon. Iroquois people occasionally fought the Lenape.
Surviving Lenape moved west into the upper Ohio River basin. In the s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory present-day Oklahoma and surrounding territory under the Indian removal policy. In the 21st century, most Lenape reside in Oklahoma , with some communities living also in Wisconsin , Ontario Canada and their traditional homelands.
Europeans came to the Delaware Valley in the early 17th century, with the first settlements founded by the Dutch, who in built Fort Nassau on the Delaware River opposite the Schuylkill River in what is now Brooklawn, New Jersey. In , Swedish settlers led by renegade Dutch established the colony of New Sweden at Fort Christina present-day Wilmington, Delaware and quickly spread out in the valley.
In , New Sweden supported the Susquehannocks in their military defeat of the English colony of Maryland. In , the Dutch built Fort Beversreede on the west bank of the Delaware, south of the Schuylkill near the present-day Eastwick neighborhood, to reassert their dominion over the area. In , a Dutch military campaign led by New Netherland Director-General Peter Stuyvesant took control of the Swedish colony, ending its claim to independence.
The Swedish and Finnish settlers continued to have their own militia, religion, and court, and to enjoy substantial autonomy under the Dutch. The English conquered the New Netherland colony in , though the situation did not change substantially until when the area was included in William Penn 's charter for Pennsylvania. In , in partial repayment of a debt, Charles II of England granted Penn a charter for what would become the Pennsylvania colony.
Despite the royal charter, Penn bought the land from the local Lenape to be on good terms with the Native Americans and ensure peace for his colony. As a Quaker , Penn had experienced religious persecution and wanted his colony to be a place where anyone could worship freely.
This tolerance, far more than afforded by most other colonies, led to better relations with the local native tribes and fostered Philadelphia's rapid growth into America's most important city. Hoping that Philadelphia would become more like an English rural town instead of a city, Penn laid out roads on a grid plan to keep houses and businesses spread far apart, with areas for gardens and orchards.
The city's inhabitants did not follow Penn's plans, however, as they crowded by the Delaware River port, and subdivided and resold their lots. Though poor at first, the city became an important trading center with tolerable living conditions by the s. Benjamin Franklin , a leading citizen, helped improve city services and founded new ones, such as fire protection, a library, and one of the American colonies' first hospitals.
A number of philosophical societies were formed, which were centers of the city's intellectual life: Philadelphia's importance and central location in the colonies made it a natural center for America's revolutionaries. By the s, Philadelphia had surpassed Boston to become the largest city and busiest port in British America , and second in the British Empire after London.
Several battles were fought in and near Philadelphia as well. President's House — the presidential mansion of George Washington and John Adams, — Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States while the new capital was under construction in the District of Columbia from to The city remained the young nation's largest until the late 18th century , being both a financial and a cultural center for America.
In , the city's free black community founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church AME , the first independent black denomination in the country, and the first black Episcopal Church. The free black community also established many schools for its children, with the help of Quakers. New York City surpassed Philadelphia in population by Large-scale construction projects for new roads, canals , and railroads made Philadelphia the first major industrial city in the United States.
Throughout the 19th century , Philadelphia hosted a variety of industries and businesses, the largest being textiles. Centennial, was celebrated in with the Centennial Exposition , the first official World's Fair in the United States. Immigrants, mostly from Ireland and Germany , settled in Philadelphia and the surrounding districts.
These immigrants were largely responsible for the first general strike in North America in , in which workers in the city won the ten-hour workday.
The city was a destination for thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine in the s; housing for them was developed south of South Street and later occupied by succeeding immigrants. They established a network of Catholic churches and schools and dominated the Catholic clergy for decades. Anti-Irish, anti-Catholic nativist riots erupted in Philadelphia in The rise in population of the surrounding districts helped lead to the Act of Consolidation of , which extended the city limits from the 2 square miles 5.
The African-American population of Philadelphia increased from 31, to , between and