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Articles Blog

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Karyn Planett

We’re goin’ hoppin’.

We’re goin’ hoppin’ today.

Where things are poppin’

The Philadelphia way.

We’re goin’ drop in

On all the music they play

On the Bandstand!

American Bandstand!” 

Well, our beloved William Penn would have had a right proper hemorrhage if he believed our greatest interest in Philadelphia was Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. But, for those boomers whose history began after 1950, Philadelphia’s hit televised dance show was exactly what put this fair city on the map. Not Betsy Ross but Diana Ross. Nor Benjamin Franklin but Aretha Franklin. Not even George Washington but Dinah Washington. Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, and the Liberty Bell were topics to discover at a later date, perhaps one day even eclipsing our addiction to Clark’s daily after-school party that “had a beat and was easy to dance to.” Nonetheless, Fabian, Frankie and Bobby LIVE ON!

The Dusty Tomes Of History 

Vast sections of our local libraries are dedicated to early American history and much of it began on the hallowed paths you’ll soon tread. As you wander about, you’ll hear of William Penn’s 1681 gift from King Charles II of a tract of virginal land stretching from Chesapeake Bay to Lake Erie and the Delaware River, as well. This parcel, worth 16,000 British Pounds at the time, became Pennsylvania and wiped clean a pesky outstanding debt. Of course, the Lenni-Lenape tribe had lain down their claims to this countryside long before, but that’s a long chapter in and of itself. For the record, it was Penn who dubbed Philadelphia the “City of Brotherly Love” in 1682.

aA teenaged Benjamin Franklin arrived in 1719 from Boston and was hired on as a printer’s assistant. Some twelve years later, Franklin founded the first subscription library, the Philadelphia Library. Little did he know at the time how historic the tale of this city would become. 

Rising Up and Laying Down A Nation’s Foundation 

There had been a lot of wrangling between the colonists and King George III who’d grown weary of this faraway land. However, it was the Stamp Act of 1765 that seemed to be the last straw for the fledgling American community. At that time, our Ben Franklin was in England and regrettably agreed to this act. When news of his actions reached Philadelphia, a pack of angry citizens gathered outside the Franklin home only to be greeted by a musket-toting Mrs. Franklin who gave them a suitable tongue-lashing. The ensuing mayhem unleashed a boycott of British goods and forced the king to back down from this nasty tax business. A messy bit of legislation, known as the Townshend Act, followed only to become the fodder for the “no taxation without representation” rallying cry. It, too, was repealed. London was enraged once again. Then the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the single most important event leading up to the Revolutionary War, exploded prompting the First Continental Congress to pen the Declaration of Rights thus unifying the colonies. The beginning of the end for the colonial powers was at hand.           

In 1775, the “shot heard round the world” was fired and the American Revolution began. George Washington was appointed commander of the continental troops. The stellar cast of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson put quill to parchment drafting the Declaration of Independence. It was signed in Independence Hall and rallied the citizens of this fledgling nation to throw off the yokes of England forever. That mission was accomplished when the last British troops pulled out in 1778.           

In 1787, Pennsylvania became America’s second state with Philadelphia as this nation’s capital for the decade from 1790 to 1800. No wonder the “City of Brotherly Love” became etched into the consciousness of the citizens of this new land, a place it still holds to this day. 

Exploring Philly At Warp Speed 

Well, your “Sightseeing Top Ten” should include Carpenters’ Hall; the Betsy Ross House; the Liberty Bell; Independence Hall; Society Hill with its collection of original 18th and 19th century buildings; Elfreth Alley which is the country’s oldest continually inhabited street; Congress Hall; the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Penn’s Landing.           

Number Ten should be … any diner that catches your eye. You’ve got your fast food joints slamming out hoagies and Philly cheesesteaks and starred, mini-portion, big-check restaurants; your pretzel-packing street vendors and ethnic markets including “Rocky Balboa’s” Italian Market in Little Italy and the Reading Terminal Market dating back to 1893. 

But, here are two Philly food factoids you might not know. In 1901, two regular guys named Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart introduced the “automat” to America – a coin-operated, prepared food dispenser-restaurant. And that ballpark treat, the pretzel, was brought to America by folks known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Originally from 7th-century France, it was concocted by a French monk who fashioned unleavened dough scraps into this unique form meant to remind us of arms crossed in prayer. These pretzels were then given to pious children who’d mastered all their prayers. The name, as you might know, comes from the Latin pretiola, meaning “little gifts or prayers”.           

Well, whatever you do today, save room for Hershey chocolates from neighboring Hershey, funnel cakes and shoofly pie from the Amish community, or just about anything slathered in Philadelphia Cream Cheese, inaugurated in 1880. You can’t go wrong, but you gotta get out of town before your diet goes all to heck in a handbasket.