Philadelphia – Independence Hall

Upon the south side of Chestnut Street, occupying the block between Fifth and Sixth Streets, is Independence Square, an open space of about four acres, tastefully laid out in flowers and lawns, with spacious and well-shaded walks. Upon the northern side of the square, and fronting Chestnut Street, is the most hallowed building of American patriotic memories, Independence Hall, a modest brick structure, yet the most interesting object Philadelphia contains. It was in this Hall, known familiarly as the ” State-house,” that the Continental Congress governing the thirteen revolted colonies met during the American Revolution, excepting when driven out upon the British capture, after the battle of the Brandywine. The Declaration of Independence was adopted here July 4, 1776. The old brick building, two stories high, plainly built, and lighted by large windows, was begun in 1732, taking three years to construct, having cost what was a large sum in those days, £5600, the population then being about ten thousand. It was the Government House of Penn’s Province of Pennsylvania. There has recently been a complete restoration, by which it has been put back into the actual condition at the time Independence was declared. In the central corridor stands the “Independence bell,” the most sacred relic in the city. This Liberty bell, originally cast in England, hung in the steeple, and rang out in joyous peals the news of the signing of the Declaration. Running around its top is the significant inscription : “Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.” This bell was cracked while being rung on one of the anniversaries about sixty years ago. In the upper story of the Hall, Washington delivered his ” Fare-well Address” in closing his term of office as President. The eastern room of the lower story is where the Revolutionary Congress met, and it is preserved as then, the old tables, chairs and other furniture having been gathered together, and portraits of the Signers of the Declaration hang on the walls. The old floor, being worn out, was replaced with tiles, but otherwise the room, which is about forty feet square, is as nearly as possible in its original condition. Here are kept the famous ” Rattlesnake flags,” with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me,” that were the earliest flags of America, preceding the Stars and Stripes. Of the deliberations of the Congress which met in this building, William Pitt wrote: “I must declare that in all my reading and observation, for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of difficult circumstances, no body of men could stand before the National Congress of Philadelphia.” In this building is Penn’s Charter of Philadelphia, granted in 1701, and West’s noted painting of “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians.” There are also portraits of all the British kings and queens from Penn’s time, including a full-length portrait of King George III., representing him, when a young man, in his coronation robes, and painted by Allan Ramsay.

Other historic places are nearby. To the westward is Congress Hall, where the Congress of the United States held its sessions prior to removal to Washing-ton City. To the eastward is the old City Hall, where the United States Supreme Court sat in the eighteenth century. Adjoining is the Hall of the American Philosophical Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin, and an outgrowth of his Junto Club of 1743. It has a fine library and many interesting relics. Franklin, who was the leading Philadelphian of the Revolutionary period, came to the city from Boston when eighteen years old, and died in 1790. His grave is not far away, in the old Quaker burying-ground on North Fifth Street. A fine bronze statue of Franklin adorns the plaza in front of the office building on Chestnut Street. Farther down Chestnut Street is the Hall of the Carpenters’ Company, standing back from the street, where the first Colonial Congress met in 1774, paving the way for the Revolution. An inscription appropriately reads that ” Within these walls, Henry, Hancock and Adams inspired the delegates of the colonies with nerve and sinew for the toils of war.” On Arch Street, east from Franklin’s grave, is the house where Betsy Ross made the first American flag, with thirteen stars and thirteen stripes, from a design prepared by a Committee of Congress and General Washing-ton in 1777. In this committee were Robert Morris and Colonel George Ross, the latter being the young woman’s uncle. It appears that she was expert at needlework and an adept in making the handsome ruffled bosoms and cuffs worn in the shirts of those days, and had made these for General Washington himself. She had also made flags, and there is a record of an order on the Treasury in May, 1777, ”to pay Betsy Ross fourteen pounds, twelve shillings twopence for flags for the fleet in the Delaware River.” She made the sample-flag, her uncle providing the means to procure the materials, and her design was adopted by the Congress on June 14. 1777, the anniversary being annually commemorated as “Flag Day.” Originally there was a six-pointed star suggested by the committee, but she proposed the five-pointed star as more artistic, and they accepted it. The form of flag then adopted continues to be the American standard. She afterwards married John Claypole, whom she survived many years, and she died in January, 1836, aged 84, being buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, on the south-western border of the city.