5 Surprising Philadelphia Facts

How well do you know the City of Brotherly Love? Even if you’ve been here for decades or for your entire life, a few facts might take you by surprise. Philly is a city of firsts and a city with a lot to be proud of.

Philly is a city that never ceases to amaze people. It’s full of quirks that make people who live here love it and that attract newcomers all the time. Whether you’ve lived here all of your life or just arrived, here are a few Philadelphia facts that might surprise you.

1. It’s a City of Firsts

Philly’s an old town. It was founded by William Penn way back in 1682. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise then that it was the birthplace of a lot of the country’s firsts. Ben Franklin founded what became the country’s first university, the University of Pennsylvania, in 1740. He also founded the first hospital in the nation, in 1751, and just for good measure, the first lending library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, in 1731.

Franklin might have had a big impact on the city’s history, but he wasn’t responsible for everything. The Philadelphia Zoo became the first zoo in the U.S., in 1874, and the first daily newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser, began publication in 1784. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts became the country’s first art school and art museum in 1805.

2. The Cheesesteak was Originally Just the Steak

The cheesesteak is to Philly as apple pie is to America. But, one of the less well known Philadelphia facts is that the cheesesteak didn’t have cheese at first. When Pat, the founder of what’s now Pat’s Steaks in the Italian Market, started selling his sandwiches, they were simply scraps of beef on a roll. A manager at the sandwich shop started adding cheese in the 1940s or 1950s.

3. It’s a Beer Town

Philly loves its beer, and it has since early days of the city. The first brewery in the city, founded by William Frampton, was located in what’s now Old City, by the Dock Street Creek. Frampton created the brewery back in 1683. By 1793, Philly was producing more beer than any other Eastern city in the U.S. Today, Philadelphia carries on its tradition as a beer town by holding an annual Beer Week. The city is still home to a number of breweries, including Yards, Philadelphia Brewing Company, and Dock Street, which is named in honor of Frampton’s original venture.

4. It’s Experiencing a Baby Boom

Philadelphia’s population is increasing, and that is largely due to the fact that people are having babies. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the city’s population grew by 34,291 between 2010 and 2014. The population’s been increasing annually eight years now, even as people have moved out of the city to other areas.

5. That Story About Betsy Ross and the Flag is a Myth

Betsy Ross is credited with sewing up the first American flag in 1777. Interestingly enough, the story about her making the flag didn’t appear until 1870, when her grandson made the claim to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, according to The Washington Post. Although she most likely didn’t actually sew that first flag, some parts of the story are true. Ross lived in Philadelphia in the 1700s and did sew flags, just not the first one for the U.S.

Getting to know some fun facts about Philadelphia can help you get to know your town better after you’ve bought a home. Having a few Philadelphia facts up your sleeves also means you have plenty of fun and clever things to share the next time you’re out with friends or at a party.

Image Source: Flickr/Rob Shenk


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