Philadelphia in 1760

SOURCE: Rev. Andrew Burnabv, "Philadelphia," Travels through the Middle Settlements in North-America in the Years 1759 and 1760 (New York: Cornell University Press, 1960), 53-6.

The next day I set out for Philadelphia, distant about thirty-six miles, and arrived there in the evening. The country all the way bore a different aspect from any thing I bad hitherto seen in America. It was much better cultivated, and beautifully laid out into fields of clover, grain, and flax. I passed by a very pretty village called Wilmington; and rode through two others, viz. Chester and Derbv. The Delaware river is in sight great part of the way, and is three miles broad. Upon the whole nothing could be more pleasing than the ride which I had this day. I ferried over the Schuilkill, about three miles below Philadelphia; from whence to the city the whole country is covered with villas, gardens, and luxuriant orchards.

Philadelphia, if we consider that not eighty years ago the place where it now stands was a wild and uncultivated desert, inhabited by nothing but ravenous beasts, and a savage people, must certainly be the object of every one's wonder and admiration. It is situated upon a tongue of land, a few miles above the confluence of the Delaware and Scbuilkill; and contains about 3000 houses, and 18 or 20,000 inhabitants. It is built north and south upon the banks of the Delaware; and is nearly two miles in length, and three quarters of one In breadth. The streets are laid out with great regularity in parallel lines , intersected by others at right angles, and are band somely built: on each side there is a pavement of broad stones for foot passengers; and in most of them a causeway in the middle for carriages. Upon dark nights it is well lighted, and watched by a patrole: there are many fair houses, and public edifices in it. The stadt house is a large, handsome, though heavy building; in this are held the councils, the assemblies, and supreme courts; there are apartments in it also for the accommodation of Indian chiefs or sachems; likewise two libraries; one belonging to the province; the other to a society, which was incorporated about ten years ago, and consists of sixty members. . . .

At a small distance from the stadt-bouse, there is another fine library, consisting of a very valuable and chosen collection of books, left by a Mr. Logan; they are chiefly in the learned languages. Near this there is also a noble hospital for lunatics, and other sick persons. Besides these buildings, there are spacious barracks for 17 or 1800 men; a good assembly-room belonging to the society of freemasons; and eight or ten places of religious worship; . . . There is also an academy or college,. originally built for a tabernacle for Mr. Whitefield. . . . These, with a few alms houses, and a schoolhouse belonging to the quakers, are the chief public buildings in Philadelphia. The city is in a very flourishing state, and inhabited by merchants, artists, tradesmen, and persons of all occupations. There is a public market held twice a week, upon Wednesday and Saturday, almost equal to that of Leadenball; and a tolerable one every day besides. The streets are crowded with people, and the river with vessels. Houses are so dear, that they will let for £100 currency per annum; and lots, not above thirty feet in breadth, and a hundred in length, in advantageous situations, will sell for £1000 sterling. There are several docks upon the river, and about twenty-five vessels are built there annually. I counted upon the stocks at one time no less than seventeen, many of them three-masted vessels.

Can the mind have a greater pleasure than in contemplating the rise and progress of cities and kingdoms? Than in perceiving a rich and opulent state arising out of a small settlement or colony? This pleasure every one must feel who considers Pennsylvania.