In 1632 a small contingent of Swedes and Finns came to the land where the Schuylkill River meets the Delaware and founded New Sweden. In 1655 Peter Stuyvesant seized New Sweden for the Dutch, inciting conflict with the British until the Dutch relinquished their rights to the territory in 1673. Nine years later William Penn established a town between the Schuylkill and the Delaware rivers, naming it Philadelphia, the "city of brotherly love", and in two years it evolved into an active settlement of about 2,500 people, most of them Quakers.
In the mid-1700’s, Benjamin Franklin began shaping the destiny of Philadelphia by presiding over the founding of the University of Pennsylvania (one of America’s first universities), Pennsylvania Hospital, and a fire insurance company (both also firsts). Under his guidance Philadelphia became the premier colonial city for the arts and the home of many famous educators, scientists, mathematicians, authors, and painters. In addition a total of 17 libraries were founded at this time. The meeting place of the Continental Congress and the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800, the year the federal government moved permanently to Washington, DC.
Throughout the 19th century, the influx first of Irish and German, then Jewish, Italian, Polish, Slavic immigrants from Europe, and blacks from the South, helped build the city’s industrial base. Today Philadelphia ranks second among U.S. cities in oil refining. A renewed vigor has overcome the city and it is evidenced by the bold and striking towers that look down on William Penn’s statue on top of Philadelphia City Hall.