The view down the Ben Franklin Parkway from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Statues of William Penn (distance, atop City Hall) and George Washington
(foreground) overlook the city; the iconic Loewe's Hotel (the former PSFS Building) is to the left.
"We’re goin' hoppin’ We're goin' hoppin’ today Where things are poppin’ The Philadelphia way We’re gonna drop in On all the music they play On the bandstand"
, "Bandstand Boogie"note
Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and fifth largest in the United States, as well as the second-largest on the East Coast and the second-densest with a population greater than 1,000,000 (after New York City
in both cases — how did you guess?). Literally translated from the Greek its name means "The City of Brotherly Love
," which is naturally its nickname. This is known as either irony considering the city's high murder rate, or Truth in Television
; brothers fight, they say mean things about each other, but you'll have to search long and hard to find another city that is so beloved by its inhabitants. No matter what we say about it. Oh, and there are
lots of gay people. In fact the entire Downtown area around 13th Street is known as the Gayborhood
The city was founded on October 27, 1682 by William Penn. A statue of him sits on top of City Hall, now eclipsed by the Bell Atlantic Towernote
, Liberty Place, and Comcast Center in height. Because sports fans are a superstitious bunch, this eclipsing was used to explain why the entire city went into a championship drought of considerable length. It should be noted that another statuette of Penn sits atop the new tallest building in the city, the Comcast Center, and that within a few months of the building's completion with Penn atop it, the Phillies won the World Series. Take that as you will. It was the city where the Continental Congress met, and the Liberty Bell is kept there. Until Washington, DC
was built, it was (usually
) the US capital.
Philadelphia is notable for being the largest city in the country having a healthy black middle-class. From the poshness of Rittenhouse Square, to the melting pot that is South Philly
, to the bohemian artists *cough*hipsters
*cough* of Northern Liberties, to the hard knocks of North Philly and parts of the Southwest
, to the strange blend of professors and students, immigrants, and poor folk who inhabit West Philly, to the quaint tree-lined streets of the towns-within-a-city of the Northwest, to the to the suburban sprawl of the "Great Northeast," to the unparalleled richness of history that is Old City, Philadelphia has everything one could ask for in its many neighborhoods. It has been a very large city for a long, long time. In the years before The American Revolution
, it was the second largest English-speaking City in the world, after London.
The city is famous for its cheesesteak sandwiches (known outside the city as "Philly cheesesteaks"). It's probably best if you just call them "cheesesteaks" or just "steaks"— anything else will get you laughed at by a native.note
You may have heard that there is special lingo for ordering steaks; this is technically true, but only really used at a few restaurants (including the "originals"—now heavily marketed to tourists—Pat's and Geno's). The city is also famous for its soft pretzels, which are narrow and S-shaped and produced in chains you break your pretzel off from; you eat it with brown
mustard, thankyouverymuch. Its culinary delights also extend to its two major markets: the Italian Market on S. 9th St. in South Philly, home to old-fashioned red-gravy Italian-American food
various Italian specialty shops, and cheap meat and produce; and the Reading Terminal Market in Center City, home to all manner of lunch restaurants, the Pennsylvania Dutchnote
(making it one of the few places you're likely to see an Amish person or Mennonite in homespun operating a credit-card reader), and more expensive meat and produce.
Philly is also famous for being the birthplace of things like the Declaration of Independence, modern democracy, and the computer.
Nothing major, though.
Philadelphia is also a very culturally rich city, with its world-class orchestra and the oldest still-operating opera house and theater in America all along, or right off of, the Avenue of the Arts (a.k.a. South Broad Street north of Lombard Street); and many world-class museums dotting the beautiful vista of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The city is also home to a number of theaters; as well as the weirdly wonderful, sequin-and-feather-filled Mummers Parade every New Year's Day note
And don't forget it has the first zoo, the first free library system, and the first Catholic school system in the country. The city is also known for its neoclassical architecture and its huge number of public murals, for which even the city's graffiti artists hold a healthy respect and generally will not tag (the few taggers who deface the murals lose the respect of other taggers).
The residents, when it comes to sports, are infamous for being extremely
vocal about their beloved teams. There have been a couple of incidents involving famous ad campaign figures
in the past that have turned into the city's own Never Live It Down
moment. It doesn't help that some in the city and particularly the city's media like reliving those particular moments. While criticism about the tendency to react vocally (booing in crowds, sarcasm and snide comments individually) certainly has been well earned, the city itself has not had any more incidents than any other city. This even extends to pseudo-sports, as ECW
was and Ring of Honor
is based in Philadelphia, and both attract a rowdy, loud, and obnoxious crowd.
On a less negative note, there was Harry Kalas
. His death hit the entire city hard, showing that even if Philly fans show it in negative ways, they really do love their sports teams and the people who keep them connected. Even a lot of those residents who don't really like sports will admit this much.
Special note should be made in regards to Benjamin Franklin
, sometimes called Philly's Favorite Son — which is odd, 'cause he was born in Boston. However, Franklin lived here for most of his long life (insanely long, by the standards of the time, toonote
), and he left an indelible mark on Philadelphia's history: considered to have established the first modern newspaper here, America's first library here, the first fire company in Pennsylvania (which was also the most modern at the time), discovered electricity here, and invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, the odometer, and the glass armonica here. According to The Other Wiki
, "A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat
." Oh, and he was one of the Founding Fathers; in fact, The American Revolution was arguably won because he was on our side
. Among the large number of contributions he made to the Colonial effort, it was Franklin's convincing the French to become involved in the war
which ensured the Victory at Yorktown, and ultimately proved to England it wasn't worth it to continue fighting the colonies. Finally, he was a well known ladies' man
, even after he got rolly-polly
. Philadelphia was already a large, rich, port city before him, but Franklin is largely credited -- true or not -- with making Philadelphia the most powerful city in the Colonies, economically, socially, and politically
. In summation, our boy Ben was nothing short of the biggest Badass God-Mode Sue
in American history (and yet we named a bridge to Camden
Philadelphia in Fiction:
- Matthew and Joey Lawrence
- Joey Bishop
- David Boreanaz
- His father is Dave Roberts, a well-known face on WPVI (6ABC) in Philadelphia. The elder Dave changed his last name because he started out when "ethnic" names were not great to have in broadcasting. Dave still hosts 6ABC's broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and David generally has a video message for his dad during the broadcast.
- The Barrymore family, the most famous of whose many actor children was John Barrymore (although younger folks might be more familiar with his granddaughter), has been based in Philly since family patriarch Maurice Barrymore came from England and married the Philadelphia actress Georgina Drew (hmm...) in 1875.
- Seth Green
- Will Smith: "Innnn West Philadelphia, born and raised" is more or less true of Smith, but his parents were firmly middle-class, and he spent a part of his late adolescence in Germantown, which is in Northwest Philly (practically suburbia compared to actual West Philly).
- Montana-born David Lynch moved to Philly at the age of 20 to attend the Academy of Fine Arts. His experiences with the city provided the fuel for his debut film Eraserhead.
- Tina Fey: As mentioned, technically from neighboring Upper Darby.
- Jamie Kennedy
- Kevin Bacon
- Bradley Cooper
- Kevin Hart
- Grace Kelly, as well as her playwright and director uncle George Kelly
- Bill Cosby, who lectures every September at his alma mater Temple University, and has spoken at his high school alma mater, Central.
- Dick Clark
- Nancy Spungen, girlfriend (and possible murder victim) of Sid Vicious
- Margaret Mead
- Noam Chomsky
- Martha Nussbaum
- Gloria Allred
- The late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of TLC
- Teller, of "Penn And..."
- Robert Crumb
- RJD 2
- Ugly Betty cast members Becki Newton, Ana Ortiz, and Mark Indelicato.
- Ana Ortiz's father is Philadelphia City Councilman Angel Ortiz.
- Bill Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron from Band of Brothers
- Although portrayed by Marc Warren with more of a southern accent, Albert Blithe was from Philadelphia.
- And Robert Leckie from The Pacific, although he grew up in Rutherford, NJ.
- Joan Jett (Wynnewood counts!)
- Patti LaBelle
- Benjamin Franklin (originally from Boston, but he ran away as a boy to seek his fortune in Philadelphia and lived there most of his life. The Ben Franklin Parkway and Franklin Institute Science Museum, among many other things, are named for him. The Franklin Institute has a ginormous statue of Ben.)
- The Roots
- The late supermodel Gia Carangi. Here's an old video of her speaking in a Philly accent before she refined her speech.
- Daryl Hall & John Oates. (Hall is a native of the area; Oates was born in New York City, but grew up in the Philly suburbs.)
- Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, although she's originally from Brooklyn.
- Legendary contralto Marian Anderson
- Chubby Checker (born in South Carolina but raised in South Philly).
- Three Stooges Larry Fine and Joe DeRita
- Jack Klugman
- Erik Petersen and his band, Mischief Brew
- John de Lancie
- Some Call Me Johnny of The Super Gaming Bros is from Philadelphia.
- M. Night Shyamalan was born in India, but grew up in the Philly suburbs. As noted above, he uses the area as the backdrop for most of his films.
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Tim & Eric: Eric was born in the city and later moved to Norristown. (Tim is from Allentown, PA, about 60 miles away.) The duo met while both were attending Temple University, and shot their first stuff down on the Jersey shore.
- Jill Scott
- Geno Auriemma, Hall of Fame basketball coach with the University of Connecticut women. Born in Italy, but raised in Norristown.
- Sandra Boynton: Born in Orange, New Jersey, she was raised in Mt. Airy in Northwest Philly.