The first city of Pennsylvania, in population, wealth and manufactures, and the second in the United States, is situated on a peninsula, formed by the confluence of Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. The city was laid out with beautiful regularity, in 1683, by its illustrious founder, William Penn, who gave it its name, signifying "brotherly love." Many of the noble trees which grew on the site, are now commemorated by the names of the streets, running east and west, as Chestnut, Walnut, Pine &c, while those crossing them are designated by numerals.
The ground on which Philadelphia is built is even, rising gently from each river, along which it extends for several miles. On the Delaware, the scenery is monotonous, but the water being deeper that that of the other river, the commerce and business of the city tends to this side; while the Schuylkill affords pleasing landscapes and agreeable places of residence. Many of the smaller vessels, sloops and boats, here congregate, laden with coal, and other products of the valley of the Schuylkill; this part of the city is now rapidly increasing in wealth and business. No feature of Philadelphia is more striking than the regularity and neatness of its streets. The latter peculiarity is chiefly owing to the convenient grade, which allows the water to descend and find its way through sewers and other channels, into the Delaware. The houses also, are more remarkable for neatness and solidity, than for splendor and show; they are mostly of brick, adorned with steps and basements of white marble, which the neighboring quarried furnish in abundance, and of fine quality. Of this material, a number of the public buildings are constructed, among which are the United States Marine hospital, the Pennsylvania bank, the Girard bank, the building formerly occupied by the United States bank, and the Girard college, which deserves more than a passing mention. A bequest of $2,000,000, with grounds beautifully situated on an elevation near the city, was made in 1831, by Stephen Girard, an eccentric, through wealthy citizen of Philadelphia, for the purposes of founding a college for orphans. With part of these funds, has been erected one of the most magnificent structures in the United States. The college consists of five buildings, the main edifice in the centre is devoted to the education of pupils and students of various ages and acquirements; the other four, two on each side, are residences for the instructors and students. The whole is of richly-wrought white marble. The central structure is 218 feet long, and 160 feet wide, surrounded by 34 Corinthian columns, 55 feet high and six feet in diameter. The interior is in a corresponding style of splendor. The four other buildings are each 125 feet long, and 52 feet wide.
Another building of Philadelphia, of less magnificent, probably excites greater interest. This is the old statehouse, or Independence hall, where the Declaration of American Independence was decreed and signed by the first continental congress. The bell which announced to the anxious people the adoption of this great instrument, is carefully preserved in the cupola; it bears the prophetic inscription: "Proclaim Liberty throughout this land unto all the inhabitants thereof." These words were imprinted on the bell long before the use which was afterward made of it could have been known. In this building are a statue of Washington, in wood, and many other relics of the Revolution.
Philadelphia contains a large number of important public buildings and institutions. Among them are the Pennsylvania hospital, which owes its origin to Doctors Franklin and Bond; the Insane asylum, outside of the city; the Almshouse, fronting Schuylkill river on its west side; institutions for the deaf and for the blind, and several other charitable establishments. Besides these, there are the American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743, by the exertions of Dr Franklin and Possessing a large and valuable library and cabinet; the Philadelphia library, also established under the auspices of Franklin; the Franklin Institute; the Academy of Natural Sciences; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; and numerous other flourishing institutions for improvement in knowledge and art. Another great structure is the United States Mint, built of white marble, with two porticoes, resting on Ionic columns, one fronting Chestnut, the other Olive street. Here a vast amount of bullion, from California and other parts of the Union is coined.
The markets of Philadelphia are among the most convenient, well supplied and well conducted, in the country. To these come vast quantities of provisions from the surrounding region, with the rich and varied fruits of New Jersey and Delaware. By the water works on the Schuylkill, at Fairmount, a large body of water is raised into elevated reservoirs, whence it is distributed over the city by iron pipes. A beautiful suspension bridge spans the Schuylkill at Fairmount, and several railroad bridges also lead to the city.
There are in Philadelphia a number of public parks, laid out with taste and beauty, shaded by trees and adorned with walks, fountains, and other appropriate ornaments. In the rear of Independence Hall, is Independence square, a favorite and agreeable public resort. Other public grounds are Franklin, Washington, Logan and Rittenhouse squares. Outside the city are Pratt's gardens, on the Schuylkill, near the water works, and below, Barton's gardens, both of which are interesting spots. These, with the beautiful villas, and soft but rich scenery of the river, render Philadelphia as agreeable a place of residence as any large city in the country.
Properly forming a part of the city, but having distinct municipal incorporations, are the five districts, Southwark, Moyamensing, Northern Liberties, Kensington and Spring Garden. These with several adjacent villages, though for convenience of government and for local causes, separated from the city; in nature, connection, and interest, and for all practical purposes, any be identified with it, except perhaps in the crookedness of their streets, which form one distinctive feature from the city itself. The Manufactures of Philadelphia are varied and important, embracing nearly all the articles produced by American industry.
The railroads diverging from Philadelphia, are the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore; the Philadelphia, Harrisburgh, and Pittsburgh; the Philadelphia, Reading, and Pottsville; the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown; the Camden and Amboy; the Columbia and Philadelphia; the Philadelphia and Westchester; the Philadelphia and Trenton branch; the Philadelphia and Germantown branch; and the New York and Philadelphia steamer line. The canals, communicating directly, or through rivers, with Philadelphia, are the Schuylkill Navigation, which extends to Port Carbon; the Pennsylvania; the Morris, which enters the Delaware at Easton; and the Delaware and Raritan river, which is navigable for steamboats from New York.
The population in 1685 was 2,500; in 1790 was 42,520; in 1800 was 70,287; in 1810 was 96,664; in 1820 was 108,116; in 1830 was 167,188; in 1840 was 258,037; in 1850 was 409,353 and in city proper was 121,376.