The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia

By John L. Cotter; Daniel G. Roberts et al. | Go to book overview

2

Philadelphia in Historic Times

PERIOD OF INITIAL SETTLEMENT: 1624-1682

FOUNDING OF THE TOWN: 1682-1701

THE COLONIAL CITY: 1701-1775

THE CITY AT WAR: 1775-1783

THE CITY IN THE FEDERAL ERA: 1783-1830

THE EARLY INDUSTRIAL CITY: 1830-1860

THE INDUSTRIAL CITY IN ITS PRIME: 1860-1901

THE CITY IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY: 1901-1930

When contrasted with the many thousands of years that Amerindians inhabited the Philadelphia region, the 450 years that have passed since Europeans first ventured into the Delaware Valley seems a very short time span indeed. Yet it would take an entire, lengthy book to do justice to all the history Philadelphia has witnessed in that time. The purpose of this chapter is not even to attempt such an exposition, but rather to sketch a picture of the cultural backdrop against which Philadelphia and the nation grew. Such a backdrop, gleaned from the written record, is an essential part of the archaeologist's approach; without it, the sites investigated would exist in a social, economic, and political vacuum. In this regard, the historical archaeologist is usually more fortunate than the archaeologist of prehistoric sites, for while both must go—to use William Graham Sumner's phrase—"up— stream in history" from what is known to what can only be surmised from the archaeological findings, the prehistorian has farther upstream to go. In the absence of historical records, the prehistorian must depend on ethnological analogues and ecological analyses for a plausible reconstruction of the setting. Historical archaeologists, on the other hand, sometimes have available to them a dazzling amount of documentation. Such is certainly the case for the archaeologist working in Philadelphia and its environs, but, as will be evident in the chapters that follow, it is by no means a one-sided relationship. While the historical record has contributed much to the archaeology of Philadelphia's historic sites, the archaeological record has also contributed to the historical picture.

Figure 2.1. (opposite page)

Philadelphia Region ... as First Seen by the White Men, conceptualized by Edward Cacchione and Bernard Mion (1934). Hamlet locations are based on various historical sources. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission)

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