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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Pennsylvania and the City of Brotherly Love

By Gabriel Thomas (17th Century)

[Quaker Emigrant with Penn. Resident in Philadelphia and West-New-Jersey, 1683–97. Account of the Province and Country of Pensilvania. 1698.]

PENNSYLVANIA lies between the latitude of forty and forty-five degrees; West Jersey on the east, Virginia on the west, Maryland south, and Canada on the north. In length three hundred, and in breadth one hundred and eighty miles.

The natives, or first inhabitants of this country in their original, are supposed by most people to have been of the Ten Scattered Tribes, for they resemble the Jews very much in the make of their persons, and tincture of their complexions. They observe new moons, they offer their first fruits to a Maneto, or supposed Deity, whereof they have two, one, as they fancy, above (good), another below (bad); and have a kind of Feast of Tabernacles, laying their altars upon twelve stones, observe a sort of mourning twelve months, customs of women, and many other rites to be touched (here) rather than dwelt upon…. They are very charitable to one another, the lame and the blind (among them) living as well as the best; they are also very kind and obliging to the Christians.

The next that came there, were the Dutch (who called the country New Netherlands) between fifty and sixty years ago, and were the first planters in those parts: but they made little or no improvement (applying themselves wholly to traffic in skins and furs, which the Indians or natives furnished them with, and which they bartered for rum, strong liquors, and sugar, with others, thereby gaining great profit) till near the time of the wars between England and them, about thirty or forty years ago.

Soon after them came the Swedes and Fins, who applied themselves to husbandry, and were the first Christian people that made any considerable improvement there.

There were some disputes between these two nations some years, the Dutch looking upon the Swedes as intruders upon their purchase and possession, which was absolutely terminated in the surrender made by John Rizeing, the Swedes’ governor, to Peter Stuyvesant, governor for the Dutch, in 1655. In the Holland war about the year 1655, Sir Robert Carr took the country from the Dutch for the English, and left his cousin. Captain Carr, governor of that place; but in a short time after, the Dutch re-took the country from the English, and kept it in their possession till the peace was concluded between the English and them, when the Dutch surrendered that country with East and West Jersey, New York (with the whole countries belonging to that government) to the English again. But it remained with very little improvement till the year 1681, in which William Penn, Esq., had the country given him by King Charles the Second, in lieu of money that was due to (and signal service done by) his father, Sir William Penn, and from him bore the name of Pennsylvania.

Since that time the industrious (nay indefatigable) inhabitants have built a noble and beautiful city, and called it Philadelphia, which contains above two thousand houses, all inhabited; and most of them stately, and of brick, generally three stories high, after the mode in London, and as many several families in each. There are very many lanes and alleys, as first, Huttons Lane, Morris Lane, Jones’s Lane, wherein are very good buildings; Shorters Alley, Towers Alley, Wallers Alley, Turners Lane, Sikes Alley, and Flowers Alley. All these alleys and lanes extend from the Front Street to the Second Street. There is another alley in the Second Street, called Carters Alley. There are, also, besides these alleys and lanes several fine squares and courts within this magnificent city (for so I may justly call it). As for the particular names of the several streets contained therein, the principal are as follows, viz., Walnut Street, Vine Street, Mulberry Street, Chestnut Street, Sassafras Street, taking their names from the abundance of those trees that formerly grew there; High Street, Broad Street, Delaware Street, Front Street, with several of less note, too tedious to insert here.


The air here is very delicate, pleasant, and wholesome; the heavens serene, rarely overcast, bearing mighty resemblance to the better part of France; after rain they have commonly a very clear sky; the climate is something colder in the depth of winter, and hotter in the height of summer (the cause of which is its being a main land or continent; the days also are two hours longer in the shortest day in winter, and shorter by two hours in the longest day of summer) than here in England, which makes the fruit so good, and the earth so fertile.


There are among other various sorts of frogs, the Bull Frog, which makes a roaring noise, hardly to be distinguished from that well known of the beast from whom it takes its name. There is another sort of frog, that crawls up to the tops of trees, there seeming to imitate the notes of several birds, with many other strange and various creatures, which would take up too much room here to mention.


And now for their lots and lands in city and country, in their great advancement since they were first laid out, which was within the compass of about twelve years, that which might have been bought for fifteen or eighteen shillings, is now sold for fourscore pounds in ready silver; and some other lots that might have been then purchased for three pounds within the space of two years, were sold for a hundred pounds apiece, and likewise some land that lies near the city, that sixteen years ago might have been purchased for six or eight pounds the hundred acres, cannot now be bought under one hundred and fifty or two hundred pounds.

Now the true reason why this fruitful country and flourishing city advance so considerably in the purchase of lands both in the one and the other, is their great and extended traffic and commerce both by sea and land, viz., to New York, New England, Virginia, Maryland, Carolina, Jamaica, Barbadoes, Nevis, Monserat, Antego, St. Christophers, Barmudas, Newfoundland, Maderas, Saltetudeous, and Old England; besides several other places. Their merchandise chiefly consists in horses, pipe-staves, pork and beef salted and barrelled up, bread and flour, all sorts of grain, peas, beans, skins, furs, tobacco, or potashes, wax, etc., which are bartered for rum, sugar, molasses, silver, negroes, salt, wine, linen, household goods, etc.

However, there still remain lots of land, both in the aforesaid city and country, that any may purchase almost as cheap as they could at the first laying out or parcelling of either city or country; which is (in the judgment of most people) the likeliest to turn to account to those that lay their money out upon it, and in a shorter time than the aforementioned lots and lands that are already improved, and for several reasons. In the first place, the country is now well inhabited by the Christians, who have great stocks of all sorts of cattle, that increase extraordinarily, and upon that account they are obliged to go farther up into the country, because there is the chiefest and best place for their stocks, and for them that go back into the country, they get the richest land, for the best lies thereabouts.

Secondly, farther into the country is the principal place to trade with the Indians for all sorts of pelt, as skins and furs, and also fat venison, of whom people may purchase cheaper by three parts in four than they can at the city of Philadelphia.

Thirdly, backwards in the country lies the mines where is copper and iron, besides other metals and minerals, of which there is some improvement made already in order to bring them to greater perfection; and that will be a means to erect more inland market-towns, which exceedingly promote traffic.


I must needs say, even the present encouragements are very great and inviting, for poor people (both men and women) of all kinds, can here get three times the wages for their labor they can in England or Wales.

I shall instance in a few which may serve; nay, and will hold in all the rest. The first was a blacksmith (my next neighbor), who himself and one negro man he had, got fifty shillings in one day, by working up a hundred pound weight of iron, which at sixpence per pound (and that is the common price in that country) amounts to that sum.

And for carpenters, both house and ship, bricklayers, masons, either of these tradesmen will get between five and six shillings every day constantly. As to journeymen shoemakers, they have two shillings per pair both for men and women’s shoes; and journeymen tailors have twelve shillings per week and their diet. Sawyers get between six and seven shillings the hundred for cutting of pine boards. And for weavers, they have ten or twelve pence the yard for weaving of that which is little more than half a yard in breadth. Wool combers have for combing twelve pence per pound. Potters have sixteen pence for an earthen pot which may be bought in England for four pence. Tanners may buy their hides green for three half pence per pound, and sell their leather for twelve pence per pound. And curriers have three shillings and four pence per hide for dressing it; they buy their oil at twenty pence per gallon. Brickmakers have twenty shillings per thousand for their bricks at the kiln. Felt makers will have for their hats seven shillings apiece, such as may be bought in England for two shillings apiece; yet they buy their wool commonly for twelve or fifteen pence per pound. And as to the glaziers, they will have five pence a quarry for their glass. The rule for the coopers I have almost forgot; but this I can affirm of some who went from Bristol (as their neighbors report) that could hardly get their livelihoods there, are now reckoned in Pennsylvania, by a modest computation, to be worth some hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds. The bakers make as white bread as any in London, and as for their rule, it is the same in all parts of the world that I have been in. The butchers for killing a beast, have five shillings and their diet; and they may buy a good fat, large cow for three pounds or thereabouts. The brewers sell such beer as is equal in strength to that in London, half ale and half stout for fifteen shillings per barrel; and their beer hath a better name, that is, is in more esteem than English beer in Barbadoes, and is sold for a higher price there. And for silversmiths, they have between half a crown and three shillings an ounce for working their silver, and for gold equivalent. Plasterers have commonly eighteen pence per yard for plastering. Lastmakers have sixteen shillings per dozen for their lasts. And heelmakers have two shillings a dozen for their heels. Wheel and millwrights, joiners, braziers, pewterers, dyers, fullers, combmakers, wire-drawers, cagemakers, cardmakers, painters, cutlers, ropemakers, carvers, blockmakers, turners, buttonmakers, hair and wood sievemakers, bodicemakers, gunsmiths, locksmiths, nailers, file-cutters, skinners, furriers, glovers, pattenmakers, watchmakers, clockmakers, sadlers, collarmakers, barbers, printers, bookbinders, and all other tradesmen, their gains and wages are about the same proportions as the forementioned trades in their advancements, as to what they have in England.

Of lawyers and physicians I shall say nothing, because this country is very peaceable and healthy; long may it so continue and never have occasion for the tongue of the one nor the pen of the other, both equally destructive to men’s estates and lives; besides forsooth, they, hangman-like, have a license to murder and make mischief. Laboring men have commonly here between 14 and 15 pounds a year, and their meat, drink, washing and lodging; and by the day their wages is generally between eighteen pence and half a crown, and diet also. But in harvest they have usually between three and four shillings each day, and diet. The maidservants’ wages is commonly betwixt six and ten pounds per annum, with very good accommodation. And for the women who get their livelihood by their own industry, their labor is very dear, for I can buy in London a cheese-cake for two pence, bigger than theirs at that price, when at the same time their milk is as cheap as we can buy it in London, and their flour cheaper by one-half.

Corn and flesh, and what else serves man for drink, food and raiment, is much cheaper here than in England or elsewhere; but the chief reason why wages of servants of all sorts is much higher here than there, arises from the great fertility and produce of the place; besides, if these large stipends were refused them they would quickly set up for themselves, for they can have provision very cheap, and land for a very small matter, or next to nothing in comparison of the purchase of lands in England; and the farmers there can better afford to give that great wages than the farmers in England can, for several reasons very obvious.


It is now time to return to the City of Brotherly Love (for so much the Greek word or name Philadelphia imports) which, though at present so obscure, that neither the mapmakers nor geographers have taken the least notice of her, though she far exceeds her namesake of Lydia (having above two thousand noble houses for her five hundred ordinary) or Celisia, or Cælesyria; yet in a very short space of time she will, in all probability, make a fine figure in the world, and be a most celebrated emporium. Here is lately built a noble town house or guild hall, also a handsome market house, and a convenient prison. The number of Christians both old and young inhabiting in that country, are, by a modest computation, adjudged to amount to above twenty thousand.


In the said city are several good schools of learning for youth, in order to the attainment of arts and sciences, as also reading, writing, etc. Here is to be had on any day in the week, tarts, pies, cakes, etc. We have also several cook shops, both roasting and boiling, as in the city of London; bread, beer, beef, and pork are sold at any time much cheaper than in England (which arises from their plenty); our wheat is very white and clear from tares, making as good and white bread as any in Europe. Happy blessings, for which we owe the highest gratitude to our plentiful Provider, the great Creator of heaven and earth. The water-mills far exceed those in England, both for quickness and grinding good meal, there being great choice of good timber, and earlier corn than in the aforesaid place, they are made by one Peter Deal, a famous and ingenious workman, especially for inventing such like machines.

All sorts of very good paper are made in the German-town; as also very fine German linen, such as no person of quality need be ashamed to wear; and in several places they make very good druggets, crapes, camblets, and serges, besides other woolen clothes, the manufacture of all which daily improves. And in most parts of the country there are many curious and spacious buildings, which several of the gentry have erected for their country houses. As for the fruit trees they plant, they arrive at such perfection, that they bear in a little more than half the time that they commonly do in England.

The Christian children born here are generally well-favored and beautiful to behold; I never knew any come into the world with the least blemish on any part of its body, being in the general observed to be better natured, milder, and more tender-hearted than those born in England.

There are very fine and delightful gardens and orchards in most parts of this country; but Edward Shippey (who lives near the capital city) has an orchard and gardens adjoining to his great house that equalizes (if not exceeds) any I have ever seen, having a very famous and pleasant summer house erected in the middle of his extraordinary fine and large garden, abounding with tulips, pinks, carnations, roses (of several sorts), lilies, not to mention those that grow wild in the fields.

Reader, what I have here written is not a fiction, flam, whim, or any sinister design, either to impose upon the ignorant or credulous, or to curry favor with the rich and mighty, but in mere pity and pure compassion to the numbers of poor laboring men, women, and children in England, half starved, visible in their meagre looks, that are continually wandering up and down looking for employment without finding any, who here need not lie idle a moment, nor want due encouragement or reward for their work, much less vagabond or drone it about. Here are no beggars to be seen (it is a shame and disgrace to the State that there are so many in England), nor indeed have any here the least occasion or temptation to take up that scandalous lazy life.

Jealousy among men is here very rare, and barrenness among women hardly to be heard of, nor are old maids to be met with; for all commonly marry before they are twenty years of age, and seldom any young married woman but hath a child upon her lap.

What I have delivered concerning this Province is indisputably true. I was an eye-witness to it all, for I went in the first ship that was bound from England for that country, since it received the name of Pennsylvania, which was in the year 1681. The ship’s name was the “John and Sarah” of London, Henry Smith, Commander. I have declined giving any account of several things which I have only heard others speak of, because I did not see them myself, for I never held that way infallible, to make reports from hearsay. I saw the first cellar when it was digging for the use of our Governor, Will. Penn.