The Port of Philadelphia lies where the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers meet in southeastern Pennsylvania. About 143 kilometers northeast of the Port of Baltimore in Maryland and 123 kilometers southwest of the Port of Newark in New Jersey, the Port of Philadelphia is the fifth biggest city in the United States and the largest city in Pennsylvania. The Port of Philadelphia is central to the history of the United States, particularly the American Revolution, and it was at one time the country's capital city. In 2007, over 1.4 million people lived in the Port of Philadelphia, and more than 5.8 million called the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metropolitan area home.
The Port of Philadelphia has a diverse economy with busy industries in manufacturing, food processing, oil refining, financial services, healthcare, biotechnology, and tourism. The Port of Philadelphia is home to several Fortune 500 companies including Comcast Corporation, Colonial Penn, Sunoco, Pep Boys, and Boeing's helicopters division. The U.S. government also has regional offices in the Port of Philadelphia. The United States Mint's East Coast operations are based in the Port of Philadelphia. The East Coast commuter rail, Amtrak is an important employer in the Port of Philadelphia.
With several law schools in the city, the Port of Philadelphia is a national center for law and the headquarters for the American Law Institute. Since the colonial era, the Port of Philadelphia has been a center for medicine, and it had the first hospital in British North America as well as the U.S.'s first medical school. As a medical and medical research center, the Port of Philadelphia area supports several companies in the pharmaceutical industry as well. Tourism is an important part of the Port of Philadelphia economy. In 2008, it was the United States' 11th most-visited city, with some 710 thousand visitors coming to the Port of Philadelphia from other countries.
When Europeans arrived in the area of the future Port of Philadelphia, they found the Leni Lenape, known today as the Delaware people. These indigenous people had already been visited by the white man's presence. Not only had they received European goods in their trade with other groups, they had been visited by white men's diseases. By the time the Pennsylvania colony was established the indigenous population was already shrinking.
When King Charles II granted William Penn the province of Pennsylvania in 1681 to settle a debt and populate the region with Englishmen, he provided a place for religious freedom for Penn's fellow Quakers. Penn sent William Markham to plan the Port of Philadelphia's layout, asking that he assure a location that was "…navigable, high, dry, and healthy." He asked that every home be in the middle of its own plot so that the town would be green and resistant to fire.
Arriving at the future Port of Philadelphia in 1682, Penn had to return to England in 1864. By the time he returned in 1699, the Port of Philadelphia was a prosperous town with about 10 thousand residents. Immigrants from England, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland were attracted to the town by its fast-growing prosperity and Penn's policies of religious tolerance, participatory governance.
By the 1770s, the Port of Philadelphia was home to 30 thousand people, and it was the British Empire's third most important business center. Located where the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, it offered easy access for inland farmlands and to coal and ores that helped build the country's iron industry. By 1756, the Port of Philadelphia was a major trade center where foodstuffs and wood products were exported to the West Indies in exchange for sugar, rum, and other products on their way to England. The Port of Philadelphia led foreign commerce in the United States until 1810, when New York City took over its position.
The Port of Philadelphia was also a leader in textile manufacturing and tool-making. The first American steam locomotives were built there. By 1860, almost a third of U.S. manufacture value was produced in the Port of Philadelphia. During the American Civil War, the Port of Philadelphia provided ships, iron products, textiles, refined sugar, leather, boots, and shoes to the Union Army.
Early Philadelphia was a wealthy city, and it was a leader in the arts, sciences, and culture. Benjamin Franklin lived there, leading American scientific and intellectual affairs. The Port of Philadelphia contained many of the country's firsts -- a free library, a hospital, and a learned intellectual society -- all founded by Franklin.
Other early American notables called the Port of Philadelphia home, among them physician Benjamin Rush and astronomer David Rittenhouse. A publishing and printing pioneer, the Port of Philadelphia had 23 printers and newspapers in 1776.
The Port of Philadelphia was the site for the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress that issued the Declaration of Independence. It was the center for governance during the American Revolution and the site of several important events, including the famous severe winter at Valley Forge. The Port of Philadelphia was occupied by the British for a time. In 1877, the Constitutional Convention met there to frame the Constitution, and it was the Nation's capital from 1790 to 1800.
The early Port of Philadelphia grew naturally as local merchants sought to increase their trade networks. They built piers and warehouses along the rivers' banks. By the time the city established a reputation for handling large volumes of cargo, the city government started building piers and warehouses of its own.
The Port of Philadelphia hosted the first Republican National Convention in 1856, reflecting its strong opposition to slavery. After the Civil War, the Port of Philadelphia was dominated by the Republican Party machine that played a central role in the election of governors and senators. In the 1930s, the Great Depression hit the city hard, but the Port of Philadelphia refused help from the Democratic Roosevelt Administration to avoid regulation of business and taxes.
A group influenced by Roosevelt's New Deal called the Young Turks, however, called for reform of the city's charter and a city planning commission. Eventually leading to dominance by the Democratic Party, most of the Port of Philadelphia's officers were Democrats through the latter 20th Century.
In the first part of the 20th Century, the Port of Philadelphia's Department of Commerce managed the waterfront. By the mid-1960s, however, operations and maintenance were too expensive for the city to handle. It formed the quasi-public non-profit Philadelphia Port Corporation to lease facilities and market the port. The new organization made many improvements to the Port of Philadelphia during the 1960s and 1970s. They created the almost 43-hectare Packer Avenue Marine Terminal and the 47-hectare Tioga Marine Terminal.
Like many large American cities, the Port of Philadelphia was rocked by protests, riots, and racial conflict during the 1960s and 1970s. Drug-related gang violence and crack thrived in the slums, and a tragic conflict between police and radicals ended in the deaths of eleven civilians and destruction of 62 houses.
From the late 1960s, Port of Philadelphia gentrification and revitalization has helped improve the city center and University City. After older manufacturers left the Port of Philadelphia, the service industry sprang up, and the city launched an aggressive marketing campaign to win tourists. Independence National Historic Park was improved, and new glass and granite skyscrapers appeared, slowing the Port of Philadelphia's long-term decline in population.
By the late 1980s, the Philadelphia Port Corporation was no longer to raise sufficient funds to both operate and develop the Port of Philadelphia. The city went to the State of Pennsylvania and, in 1990, the State created and funded the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) to oversee the port, make improvements, and add new port facilities.