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Philadelphia Firsts

Philadelphia's Distinguished History


Philly Firsts and Other Distinctions

Philadelphia is considered the birthplace of the United States of America. But that is just one of the city’s many claims to fame. The city is over 300 years old, and it has countless landmark “firsts” and other distinctions in American history. This list covers just a few of the many distinguished accomplishments that can be credited to Philadelphians.

Philadelphia Firsts (in order from earliest date)

1681: The first parks were created simply for the pleasure of people. They were three of William Penn’s original squares that remain an anchor today in Center City Philadelphia.

1690: The first paper mill in North America was built near Germantown by William Bradford.

1685: The first almanac, America’s Messenger, was created by William Bradford

1728: The first botanical gardens was created by John Bartram along the Schuylkill River, now Bartram’s Gardens.

1731: The first lending library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, was opened by Benjamin Franklin, among others.

1736: Founding of the first voluntary fire squad in the United States, the Union Fire Company

1743: The first institution devoted to science and philosophy in North America, the American Philosophical Institution, was founded.

1751: Founding of the first Hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital.

1752: Founding of first fire insurance company, the Philadelphia Contributionship.

1776: The first reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in Philadelphia.

1777: The first United States flag on record and the first Fourth of July celebration in the nation.

1780: The first bank in the nation, Pennsylvania Bank, opened.

1790: The first stock exchange was the Philadelphia Exchange.

1790-1800: Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States as a nation.

1799-1802: The first row houses ever built were originally called Carstairs Row (now Jewelers’ Row).

1802: The first public water supply project, Philadelphia Water Works, opened and remains as a historic site behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

1805: The first art museum and art school was the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

1812: The first natural history institution was The Academy of Natural Sciences.

1854: The first Consolidation Act by a city and its townships took place in Philadelphia and expanded the city’s boundaries, population, and most importantly, tax base.

1874: The nation’s first zoo was the Philadelphia Zoo.

1876: The nation’s first department store was Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s occupies the building).

1920: The first Thanksgiving Day Parade in the nation was here in Philadelphia.

1934 : The first professional football game took place in Philadelphia, and for the record, Philadelphia Eagles beat Cincinnati Reds, (64-0).

1946: The first computer (ENIAC) was constructed at University of Pennsylvania.

Other Distinctions

The oldest street in continuous use is Elfreth’s Alley, since 1702.

Philadelphia has more murals than any city in the world, more than 3,000.

The oldest theater in continuous use in the English-speaking world is the Walnut Street Theatre, since 1809.

The oldest and largest outdoor market is the Italian Market.

The largest landscaped city park is Fairmount Park with 9,200 acres.

The oldest African American newspaper: The Philadelphia Tribune, since 1885.

The largest masonry building in the world is City Hall.

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