Monday, January 30, 2017

Touching History - Philadelphia, part 1

     Being near to many of our nation's key historical locations has afforded our family numerous fascinating field trips. In this blog series, Touching History, I'll share with you some of the places we've visited.

     Recently, we took a trip to New Jersey and stayed in Philadelphia for a few days.

The Delaware River


     When William Penn received a massive tract of land from the king of England as repayment for a debt, he was delighted and named it Pennsylvania. He christened its capital "Philadelphia," which is derived from the Greek words "phileo" (meaning "to love") and "adelphos" (meaning "brother"). Penn's main desire for this new city was that religious freedom would be upheld. He believed that in doing so, God would "bless and make it the seed of a nation." Indeed, Philadelphia would be the birthplace of our nation's two greatest documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and would also become America's first capital.

     Independence Hall is well-known as being the place where both the Declaration of Independence the Constitution were signed. But before that, it was known as the Pennsylvania State House. It was under construction for 16 years (1732 - 1748) and was supervised by Andrew Hamilton. The original design did not include a tower or steeple. The present day tower and steeple were built in 1828.

South side of Independence Hall.

Statue of George Washington outside the front entrance.

Restored clocks on the eastern side. 

     The east room of Independence Hall was where the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania met to hear and judge cases. Note the Defendant's Box on the lower right, which is where the accused would stand throughout the trial. Interestingly, the practice of having the defendant stand throughout the trial is where we get the phrase "standing for trial."

     In May of 1775, Philadelphia loaned the western room of their State House, called the Assembly Room, to the founding fathers for the Second Continental Congress. It was in this room, on July 4, 1776, where they accepted and signed the Declaration of Independence. Twelve years later, in 1787, the founding fathers would again meet in this room for the Constitutional Convention. After several months of heated debates, the US Constitution was ratified and signed. 

     Much of the original look of the Assembly Room has been lost to time but thanks to the work of the National Park Service, it has been mostly restored. There are, however, two original artifacts on display. The wooden chair sitting behind the table at the front of the room is supposedly the chair George Washington sat in during the Constitutional convention. 

     Also, this period inkstand is believed to be the one used by the signers of both the Declaration and Constitution.

     Across the street from Independence Hall is perhaps the most iconic piece of Philadelphia: the Liberty Bell.

     In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly ordered a bell be made to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the writing of Pennsylvania's first Constitution, the Charter of Privileges. A bell was duly cast and prominently displayed in the town square. Unfortunately, someone rung it, causing it to crack. A new, sturdier bell was ordered to be made. So the old one was melted down and recast. While it was more durable, the bell now had a terribly annoying clang. Finally, a third bell was formed, which is the one we see today. Inscribed around the top of the bell are the words, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof. Lev. XXV X  By order of the assembly of the province of Pennsylvania for the State House in  PhiladA ." 

     There are numerous theories as to how the Liberty bell obtained the crack for which it's famous. However it's commonly believed that the final crack was made when it was rung for several hours in celebration of George Washington's birthday.  

     Visiting Philadelphia, observing Revolutionary period architecture, and walking where many of the godly founders of this nation walked, was a thrilling experience for me! So much American history is located in Philadelphia and I wish we had time to see it all. If you're ever in Pennsylvania, set aside a week of free time to visit Philly!

     Be sure to watch for the next post where we take a look at the American Philosophical Association (started by Ben Franklin), America's first hospital, and Christ Church. 


  1. Sounds like a lot of fun! :D Looking forward to the rest of this series!

    1. It was an awesome trip! Looking forward to sharing the rest with you. :D

  2. Man, this brings back so many memories! My family did an east coast trip, and we also stopped in Philly. Did you try the cheese steaks? :P
    Oh, and I was wondering, did you update your blog header recently? I like it! ;)

    1. No, unfortunately, we only had a few hours and weren't able to stop and eat. :'( I've heard the cheese steaks are really good though.
      Yes, I did update the blog header! Thanks for noticing. :) I'm still doing some tweaking on the blog layout and colors; it doesn't quite have the perfect look I want.

  3. This was an interesting post to read. Thanks for sharing your trip, Gloria. I love visiting places where History took place. :)

    1. Thanks Ashley! I love visiting historical sites as well! It really brings history to life.

  4. Enjoyed your photos. This looks like a fascinating place to visit! It does remind me of the movie National Treasure though! :D

    1. Thanks! It definitely was! I've never heard of that movie. What's it about?