Top of page

Charter of Philadelphia – Pic of the Week

Share this post:

Title page of Charters of the Province of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia
Title page of Charters of Province of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia, printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1742.
First page of the Charter of the City of Philadelphia from 1701
First page of the 1701 charter of Philadelphia. (Both photos, Donna Sokol.)

Friday, October 27, marks the 335th anniversary of the founding of the city of Philadelphia by William Penn. In 1681 Penn received a royal charter for a portion of an area that had been recently annexed from the Dutch.  As part of establishing the city he met with representatives of the local Lenape tribe and signed a treaty of purchase.  In 1701 he granted the inhabitants of his new city a municipal charter.  In the same year he granted the Charter of Privileges, which included advanced concepts such as the right for a criminal defendant to be represented by counsel.

Half-length portrait of William Penn, facing right and wearing armor with a white lace scarf around his neck
William Penn, half-length portrait, facing right. Print. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. //

During the colonial era, Philadelphia was a major port and cultural center.  The city’s first newspaper opened in 1719; in the early 1720s Benjamin Franklin relocated to the city.  Franklin would have an outsize role in the development of the city’s civic and cultural institutions including the establishment of the famed fire brigade.  In the 1770s Philadelphia played a leading role in the War for American Independence by hosting the First and Second Continental Congresses.  Deliberations over the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution both occurred at Independence Hall.  Philadelphia served as the capital of the new federal government from 1790 to 1800, after which the seat of government was relocated to it’s permanent location in Washington, D.C.  Today the city is a major center for education, health care, banking and manufacturing.

Pictured above is the first page of the charter of Philadelphia granted by Penn in 1701.  The charter is part of a collection of Pennsylvania provincial documents that was printed by Franklin’s print shop in 1742.

Happy birthday, Philadelphia!


  1. I have some question about this statement above:

    “Friday, October 27, marks the 335th anniversary of the founding of the city of Philadelphia by William Penn”

    Based on my very limited (internet) research October 27, 1682 was the date Penn performed a “Livery of Seisen” on the banks of the Delaware River well south of what would later become Philadelphia. This was a legally operative ceremony whereby Penn took possession of the total land granted to him by the king (within that specific grant).

    Philadelphia was not created or otherwise impacted by this legal act. In fact – I do not think the name “Philadelphia” was in use at that time.

    On October 25, 1701 Penn granted the charter for Philadelphia – thus legally recognizing the city of Philadelphia for the first time.

    So – on my reading – it is possible that some form of what is today the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may have been formed on 10/27/1682, Philadelphia was formed somewhat later in 1701.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *