We're goin' hoppin today
Where things are poppin
The Philadelphia way
Were gonna drop in
On all the music they play
On the bandstand"
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.
The city was founded on October 27, 1682 by William Penn. A statue of him sits on top of City Hall, now eclipsed by Three Logan Square, Liberty Place, and Comcast Center in height. 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, D.C. 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 maze-like quasi-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 hilly Northwest, 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). Sub sandwiches are popular in Philly as well, and locally they are referred to as hoagies. You can get them from small sandwich shops or from Wawa, a very popular convenience store chain in the region. 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,note 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. Another popular food in Philly is crab fries, especially from Chickie & Pete's, served with cheese dip. A popular dessert is Italian ices, especially from Rita's, referred to locally as water ice after its slushy texture.
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...after being given a shit-kicking if found).
The residents, when it comes to sports, are infamous for being extremely outspoken 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. (Admittedly, the last couple of years when Veterans Stadium was in operation, they actually had a court in the basement simply because of the sheer number of law-breakers at Eagles games.) This even extends to pseudo-sports, as quite a few notable wrestling promotions (most notably Ring of Honor and the defunct ECW) are based in Philadelphia, and most of them attract rowdy, loud, and obnoxious crowds. Philadelphia and her inhabitants are very vocal about their criticism or disdain, even to their own sports teams; and if you go into their city with a bad show, you'll hear it straight from the viewers. Also, they seem to have a problem with naming their hockey/basketball stadium- built as a replacement for the old Spectrum (since razed), it was first named CoreStates Center, after a local bank. Then that bank got bought out, and was renamed to First Union Center. They merged with another bank, hence becoming Wachovia Center. Then Wachovia was bought out by Wells Fargo of California, so it's now Wells Fargo Center.
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.
Then came Super Bowl LII in 2018, where the Eagles triumphed over the Patriots in a nail biter of a game (also a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005). The celebrations started immediately with people rushing to the streets, screaming and marching, honking car horns, and climbing poles. It was a true testament to how much a victory really meant to the city of Philadelphia.
There is a distinct Philadelphia accent spoken by natives. By far the most famous feature of the Philly accent is that water is pronounced as "wooder." There are some flat vowel sounds in there, such as the "ow" sound being replaced by a flat "A" sound so "towel" is pronounced as "tal," and the "H" sound is frequently dropped (for example, "huge" sounds like "yuge"). There is a clipped, percussive inflection, as well as the usual Mid-Atlantic distinction between words like "caught" vs. "cot." Another notable feature is that "Eagles" is pronounced like "Iggles." Also, be prepared to hear someone refer to a group of people as "yous." There are slight variations throughout the city and its metropolitan area, with notable variants including South Philly, Northeast Philly, and neighboring areas of Delco and South Jersey.
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 badasses in American history (and yet we named a bridge to Camden after him...note ).
Philadelphia in Fiction:
- Rocky, of course.
- In real life, the Rocky statue from the third film got to stay in front of the Art Museum for several years before finally being moved to the sports stadium.
- It's back to being in front of the Art Museum, just to the right of the stairs.
- In real life, the Rocky statue from the third film got to stay in front of the Art Museum for several years before finally being moved to the sports stadium.
- Cold Case
- The main character of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was originally from West Philadelphia, born and raised. As is Will Smith himself. These lyrics have actually been found on posters at stops along the El; in 2018, some suggested that SEPTA might get Smith to voice some announcements on the train (following Seth Rogen's turn recording PSAs on the Vancouver SkyTrain).
- The Real World: Philadelphia has the housemates living in Old City.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia takes place in South Philadelphia.
- Approximately half of Jackass, and all of Viva La Bam.
- Left 4 Dead: The "No Mercy" campaign appears to be based here.
- All My Children and One Life to Live take place in neighboring fictional Main Line suburbs.
- 12 Monkeys takes place here and in Baltimore.
- Most films directed by M. Night Shyamalan take place in or near Philadelphia.
- Boy Meets World is set in an unspecified part of the Philadelphia suburbs (maybe Montgomeryville or Ardmore).
- Body of Proof, which takes place in the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.
- Philadelphia, obviously
- Heavy Rain is ostensibly based on Philadelphia, and although it looks the part, its obviously European cast won't fool a single Philadelphian (or any American, or possibly any English speaker, for that matter).
- Invincible, wherein South Philly bartender Vince Papale tries out for (and makes) the Eagles. Noteworthy in that every Philadelphian in the movie has a Noo Yawk accent.
- Heart of the City. Specific locations have been referenced on occasion.
- While 30 Rock is set in Noo Yawk, Liz Lemon's family is from the Philadelphia area (White Haven, PA to be exact, although the real town is actually in Northeastern Pennsylvania near Wilkes-Barre about 100 miles away), and she's been known to lapse into stereotypical Philadelphia-sports-fan behavior. She even references the snowball-throwing at Santa Claus.
Jack: "Kabletown". With a "K".
- Well, she should be from Philly, seeing as how the woman who created the show, writes the show, plays her in the show, and serves as the basis for her is from there too. (Well, she's from Upper Darby...but same difference.)
- Also, the cable company that buys out NBC, Kabletown (a Bland-Name Product version of Comcast), is based in Philly (like Comcast). Jack doesn't approve:
Liz: Go Eagles! *throws a snowball at Jack*Jack: Where did you even get a snowball?Liz: Philly rules! Cheesesteaks, Bobby Clarke, Will Smith! Your town SUCKS!
- Then there's this little moment:
- How to Get Away with Murder is set here. More specifically, it is implied to be set in Northeast Philadelphia based on the semi-suburban appearance of the setting and references to Fishtown and Kensington.
- The e-novel EHUD Prelude To Apocalypse is ostensibly set in Philadelphia; however, the author has noted in the chapter notes that not only has he never been to Philadelphia, he knows virtually nothing about it, leading to some rather vague locational descriptions.
- Starstuff was locally produced by TV station WCAU. It is set in Philadelphia and makes frequent references to the city, most notably the appearance of the Mummers Parade in the first episode.
- Ditto for the WCAU-produced The Candy Apple News Company.
- American Bandstand started in Philadelphia. It moved to L.A. in 1964, but "the Philadelphia way" stayed in the opening theme song till the show ended in 1989.
- The Goldbergs is set in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown.
- American Dreams
- Blow Out starring John Travolta.
- Trading Places
- Maniac Magee
- Hunter: The Vigil uses Philadelphia as its example of a city of hunters.
- Jump Start
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids takes place in North Philadelphia, Bill Cosby's childhood home.
- Philadelphia is the Cahills' first stop in their hunt for The 39 Clues.
- Part of National Treasure is filmed in Phladelphia, with a few important clues and plot points found within the city.
- Silver Linings Playbook takes place in Philadelphia, with sports fanaticism (the Eagles) playing a particularly large part in the film's plot.
- On Empire, the Lyon family is originally from Philadelphia, although they currently live in New York. Flashbacks take place here and some of the characters return to take care of old business.
- Full Court Miracle
- Brotherly Love is set in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Overbrook, primarily at Overbrook High School.
- The X-Files: several episodes take place in Philadelphia. A few of these were forgettable and a few were stand-out installments. In one episode in particular, Mulder expresses extreme prejudice toward the city and proceeds to antagonize everyone he encounters (mostly the homeless and the local police department) by trash talking Philly sports teams and repeatedly stereotyping Philadelphians for having an unfriendly reputation. Of course, he carries a gun.
- Mulder's prejudice likely has to do with Scully's behavior in the (earlier, Philadelphia-based) episode "Never Again." In that episode, Scully gets fed up with Mulder and shacks up with a guy in Philly who just went through a bitter divorce and is being mind-controlled by his sexy tattoo. This caused Mulder to have separation anxiety. They got better, but his frustration transferred to the city.
- The Tony Randall Show (1976-78) featured Tony playing a judge and was set in Philadelphia.
- Witness alternates between Amish Country and Philadelphia.
- American Dad! takes place in the fictional DC suburb of Langley Falls, Virginia, but Stan Smith grew up in Philadelphia.
- In the Heat of the Night takes place in Mississippi but Sidney Poitier's character Mr. Tibbs is a cop visiting from Philly.
- Mike Ehrmantraut of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is originally from Philadelphia where he was a dirty cop. It's revealed in the prequel series that his son Matt was also a cop, but refused to be dirty and it led to his murder. Mike murdered the cops who killed him in revenge and then fled to Albuquerque to be near his daughter-in-law and granddaughter who had done the same after Matt's death.
- "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John.
- "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen (theme of the movie Philadelphia)
- The theme to American Bandstand
- "Oh Dem Golden Slippers," the theme song of the Mummers Parade.
- "Philadelphia Chickens"
- "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men
- The Philly Soul genre, centered on writer-producers Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records label. Notable artists include Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, The O'Jays, and the Three Degrees.
- 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 is from Overbrook Park.
- Will Smith: "Innnn West Philadelphia, born and raised" is true of Smith, but his parents were firmly middle-class.
- 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 was from East Falls in Northwest Philly. There's also 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, Ben Franklin Bridge, 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.
- Jedi Mind Tricks (Vinnie Paz was born in Italy but raised in Philly, and Jus Allah is originally from New Jersey, but the group formed in Philly and is probably the most recognizable face of the city's contributions to hip-hop aside from The Roots)
- Vektor (originally from Arizona, but Dave DiSanto, Frank Chin, and Blake Anderson all relocated to Philly and the band is currently based out of the city)
- Mark Levin was born in Philly and raised just across the city line in Montgomery County.
- Benjamin Netanyahu lived in Montgomery County at two different times during his childhood, including all of his high school years.
- Bob Saget
- Eddie Fisher