The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia

By John L. Cotter; Daniel G. Roberts et al. | Go to book overview
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5

The Delaware Waterfront

INTERSTATE-95: THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

WEST'S SHIPYARD AND ITS NEIGHBORS: FROM SAND TO ASPHALT ON THE "HERTZ LOT"

FRONT AND DOCK STREETS: SOME OF THE EARLIEST EVIDENCE

THE HIGH WARD: REFLECTIONS ON A CHANGING CULTURE

8 SOUTH FRONT STREET: A STUDY IN CONTINUITY

FROM PORCELAIN ROSETTES TO BRASS CANNONS: THE STORY OF THE BONNIN AND MORRIS PORCELAIN FACTORY

FORT MIFFLIN: FORGOTTEN DEFENDER

THE FRANKLIN SQUARE POWDER MAGAZINE

THE FRANKFORD ARSENAL: NEARLY TWO CENTURIES OF ARMING THE NATION

Of all the forces that shaped the early history of Philadelphia, none was more important than the Delaware River. From the time the first settlers arrived in William Penn's "green country town" until well into the nineteenth century, the majority of Philadelphians lived in houses clustered near the riverfront. The river was for many of them the source of a livelihood. By 1700, less than twenty years after Thomas Holme laid out Penn's great town, many of Philadelphia's 2,000 residents were working on the wharves that lined the river, and there was enough business to keep the employees of four small shipyards busy. Seventy-five years later, the erstwhile village had grown into the largest city in the British colonies. Shipbuilding, importing, and exporting were mainstays of the economy, and a great many of the more than 23,000 people who then lived in Philadelphia were engaged in these occupations or in some other form of maritime commerce. It was not until about 1810 that New York began usurping Philadelphia's place as the major port of entry to America, and even then the Delaware would continue to play a central role in the economy of Philadelphia and in the lives of Philadelphians for well over a century.

In 1777 English-born Robert Morris described his adopted city with these words: "You will consider Philadelphia from its centrical situation, the extent of its commerce, the number of its artificers, manufacturers and other circumstances, to be to the United States what the heart is to the human body in circulating the blood" (Weigley 1982:134). But if Philadelphia was the heart of the young nation, then the Delaware was surely its aorta. It was the source both of the

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