While almost all cities lay claim to their share of “firsts”, no U.S. city can claim as many as Philadelphia


via About.com
One of the oldest cities in the United States, Philadelphia was founded by William Penn in 1682 and laid out in a simple grid pattern that included wide streets and five public squares. In that respect, Philadelphia was the first “planned city” in North America.

While it would be impossible to list all of Philadelphia’s “firsts” in a single article, it’s well worth while to look at a sample of some of the most interesting ones.

• Philadelphia is home to the nation’s first public grammar school, now known as the William Penn Charter School, founded in 1689.

• America’s first life insurance company, The Presbyterian Minister’s Fund, was opened in Philadelphia in 1717.

• America’s first botanical garden, Bartram’s Gardens, opened in 1728.

• Philadelphia is home to the nation’s first public library – the Free Library of Philadelphia – founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.

• The first volunteer fire department, the Union Fire Company, was founded in Philadelphia in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin.

• The Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, opened its doors in 1751 – the first hospital in America. In addition, Philadelphia is home to the nation’s first medical school, first children’s hospital, first cancer hospital, first eye hospital, first nursing school and first dental school!

• The concept of lightning being electricity was discovered by Benjamin Franklin in 1752 when he was able to draw lightning from the clouds by means of a kite.

• The first flag of the United States was sewn in Philadelphia in 1777 by Betsy Ross.

• The first university in America, the University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1779, traces its roots to a tuition-free school founded in 1740.

• The Pennsylvania Bank, the first American public bank, opened in 1780. It was later renamed the Bank of North America, the first incorporated bank chartered by the Continental Congress.

• Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States from 1790 – 1800.

• The first stock exchange in the United States was the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which organized in 1790.

• The first mint in the United States opened in Philadelphia in 1792. For the first time standardized coins were issued for the new nation.

• The first municipal water system in the country, the Philadelphia Water Works, began operation in 1799.

• The first art school and art museum in America, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was founded in Philadelphia in 1805.

• The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, organized in 1827, is the oldest continually operating horticultural society in the United States. The Philadelphia Flower Show, first held in 1829 and sponsored by the Society, was the first large flower show in the country.

• In 1874 the Philadelphia Zoo became the first zoo to open in the United States.

• The first World’s Fair held in the new world was held in Philadelphia in 1876 to mark the centennial of the United States.

• The PSFS Building in downtown Philadelphia became the nation’s first modern skyscraper (notably fully air-conditioned) when it opened its doors in 1932.

• The world’s first computer, ENIAC, was built at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946.

We’ve only just sampled a few of the many “firsts” which have occurred in Philadelphia. If

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