Historic Philadelphia Sites and Travel Tips IncludingClick on the photos below to see larger versions.
A Cheap And Easy Way To Visit Valley Forge
Philadelphia is in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania. It's about mid-way between
New York Cityand Baltimore with each being about 100 milesaway. Just across the Delaware River is Camden, New Jersey.Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the US (Houston is fourth). During the 1700s it was the largest city in the colonies.
Philadelphia is surrounded by historic revolutionary sites. Washington Crossing Historical Park, where Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, is about
35 milesto the northeast of downtown Philadelphia (search for Washington Crossing, PA on Mapquest). Trenton, NJ,the place Washington was marching his troops to that night, is just 10 milessoutheast of Washington Crossing. (And the battlefield at Princeton is less than 15 miles northeast of Trenton.)
Valley Forge National Historic Park is just 25 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia and you can take a city bus to it (see the "Visiting Valley Forge" section below). Brandywine Battlefield Park is only
30 mileswest-southwest of the city near Chadds Ford.It was the British victory at Brandywine in September of 1777 that allowed the British to occupy Philadelphia. Unfortunately, there are no public buses or private tour shuttles that go to either Washington Crossing or Brandywine. You'll need a car to visit those.
The city of Philadelphia itself is also filled with historic sites. Most of these sites are located in the eastern part of "Center City" which is an area between the Delaware River on the east and Schuylkill River on the west. Starting at the Delaware River and going west, north-south streets are
Front Street, Second Street, Third Street, etc. (There is no "14th Street" as it is named Broad Street and City Hall is located in the square at Market and Broad Streets as indicated by the red star on the map below). East-West Streets have names and the historic area is between Race Streeton the north and Pine Streeton the south. The names of most of the streets in this area are the same as when Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and their contemporaries walked them.
NOTE: If you're going to Philadelphia on business and you're thinking of visiting the sites in the evening you'll be disappointed. Tour hours on almost all historic sites isThe bulk of the historic sites lie in an area bounded by
9 amto 5 pm(no evening hours). However, most sites are open seven days a week if you can extend your stay into a weekend. If not, some evening options are available to you including a trolley tour, a 6 pmWalking Tour, Washington Square, visiting Franklin's grave, and walking down Elfreth's Alley. You can walk by places like Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Carpenters Hall, etc. of course. They actually look kinda neat because they are lit up at night. The lighted Liberty Bell is also visible from the sidewalk on the north side of Chestnut Street. Arch Streeton the north, Walnut Streeton the south, Second Streeton the east and Seventh Streeton the west (see the area map below). As a result, all of the main sites can be seen by simply walking around. However, the trolley tours are nice as they cover more of Center Cityand the tour guides give a lot of useful information. I found it helpful to do the trolley tour first as this provided a good orientation to the area so I could better plan what to visit and in what order while I was walking. A trolley "City Tour" ticket costs $23 but it's good for all day so you can hop off a trolley to check out a site and then hop on the next one that comes along. (You can add a second day for $6 more.) It's also a good way to visit the sites if you don't want to do a lot of walking. (Web Site)Tip: Every evening at 6 pma volunteer group gives a "walking tour" of the area. Not all of the sites can be covered in the one to one-and-a-half hour stroll around the historic district, but the volunteer guides give a lot of good information. The meeting place for these free tours is on the sidewalk right across Chestnut Street from the rear of Independence Hall (i.e. between Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell). Look for a sign on the fence in that area for the precise location.
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell
Independence Hall (the Pennsylvania State House in the mid-to-late 1700s) is one of the most historic sites in our country. It contains (first floor-east) the Assembly Room used by Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams, and others during the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This was no casual affair as anyone signing it would most assuradly be hung for treason if they were captured by the British. Eleven years later, some of the same men would again use this room to the draft and sign the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Most of the interior and exterior of the building is original. For the most part the furniture is not original but the "rising sun chair" located on the dais used by George Washington while he acted as president of the Constinutional Convention is original. It can rightly be said that this room is where the United States of America was created.
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Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are in a secured area near Fifth and Chestnut Streets. Tickets are required to tour Indpendence Hall and you pass through the Liberty Bell Center on your way to your tour. You obtain tour tickets at the Independence Park Visitor Center which you enter near Sixth and Market Streets. With tickets in hand you can proceed to the security screening building to start making your way through the Liberty Bell center and on to Independence Hall.
The East and West Wings of Independence Hall are re-creations. The West Wing is a museum which houses the original ink well used by our founding fathers when they signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It also has the copy of the Declaration of Independence that was first read to the public in the square outside Independence Hall and George Washington's copy of the Constitution. The East Wing serves as the tour starting point where an introductory presentation is given by the park ranger conducting the tour.
You'll likely have to wait an hour or more for your tour of Independence Hall (the tour time will be printed on your ticket). If you're by yourself, go to the tour start area and when a tour starts ask the ranger if there's room for one more (there often is due to no-shows) so you can get your tour early and start visiting other sites. However, do take time to visit Congress Hall and the museum in the West Wing before you leave the area. Park rangers give interesting presentations in the House Chamber of Congress Hall throughout the day. (Once you exit the secure area you'll have to go through the security screening process again to get back in.)Note: Other than an initial year in New York city, most of George Washington's two terms as the first president (and the operations of the rest of the new federal government for that matter) were spent in Philadelphia. "The Presidents House" was located on the south-east corner of 6th and Market Streets. After passing through the security screening center you will enter the north doors of the Liberty Bell Center. These doors are in the same location as the entrance to the slave quarters which housed Washington's slaves while he was president in Philadelphia living in the Presidents House. John Adams also lived in this house until he moved to the new "Federal City" (Washington, DC) in 1800. Interestingly, the same house served as General Howe's headquarters during the 1777-78 British occupation of Philadelphia. In 2010 the National Park Service opened the Presidents House exhibition on the site of the original house following a multi-year archaeological expedition that uncovered part of the house's original foundation.When getting your Independence Hall tour tickets at the Visitors Center, ask for a tour time after
3 pmif possible. This is because during most of the day the Congress Hall (next to Independence Hall) presentations only cover the first floor (House of Representatives chamber). But after 3 pmthey also show the Senate chamber on the second floor. (This is where the terms "upper house" and "lower house" of Congress came into the lexicon.) As Vice-President during the Washington administration, Adams served as president of the Senate for eight years in the upper Senate chamber. James Madison ("father of the Constitution") served in the lower chamber as a representative for the state of Virginia during this period. The lower House chamber was the site of Washington's swearing in as President for his second term. It is also the site of John Adams' swearing in as the second President where many wondered if George Washington, who was present, would really voluntarily relinquish his powerful position to Adams when the time came which, in the days of monarchs, was highly unusual.
The National Park Service has a Web site with information about Independence National Park. You can reserve your Independence Hall tour tickets (including specifying a tour time) on line and pick them up at the Visitor Center when you arrive. Click on the "Independence Hall Tickets" link near the bottom of this page:
NOTE: The times I have given on this page are typical of the summer months. Check the Web site above for a schedule of hours all year.
Other Sites To See
Many other historic buildings lie to the east of Independence Hall and are within walking distance of it.
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There are two buildings related to the American Philosophical Society. In the 1700s "philosophy" encompassed science, mathematics, and higher learning in general. The society was created by Benjamin Franklin to promote higher learning. As an organization the society still exists today and their original headquarters building is behind old City Hall. (The old City Hall building is where the Supreme Court met during the 1790s.) A recreation of the society's library building, across the street from the headquarters building, is still used by members and researchers.
Tip: From time to time one of Thomas Jefferson's hand-written drafts of the Declaration of Independence (with margin annotations by Arthur Lee) is made available for viewing at the Philosophical Society Library. It's worth stopping in to check to see if it's available while you're in town. Use the side entrance and ask the receptionist if the draft is available for viewing. If it is, it'll be just off to the left in a display case. (If it is available, DON'T take any flash pictures of it.)Two blocks to the east of Independence Hall is Carpenters Hall. Originally built to house a carpenters guild, this building was the meeting place of the first gathering of our founding fathers in 1774. Boston's harbor was blockaded by the British and the First Continental Congress met here and agreed to support Massachusetts. John Adams said that it was at this gathering that "Thirteen clocks were made to strike as one." The building still houses the guild today where current members help maintain the work done by members from the 1700s. The first floor meeting room is now a museum which is open from
(Web Site) 10 amto 4 pmTuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). Among the exhibits is a banner which was carried by guild members during a parade in 1788 celebrating the ratification of the new Constitution and the resulting creation of the new nation.
Christ Church was built in the 1730s and was attended by many of the founding fathers. Washington's pew is denoted with a small plaque. Betsy Ross' pew is right next to it denoted with a small flag. There are numerous graves around the church including those of a couple signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is still an active church today holding regular services.
While there are graves on the Christ Church property, the Christ Church Burial Ground (cemetery) is two blocks west of the church. There is a brick wall around the Christ Church Burial Ground and Benjamin Franklin was buried right next to the
Arch Streetwall. During the 1800s the church removed the section of wall next to Franklin's grave and replaced it with a section of iron fence so that it visible from the sidewalk. Visitors often toss a penny through the fence onto his grave for good luck (due to his "A penny saved is a penny earned." axiom). However, you can go inside the Burial Ground and use one of the maps they have available to visit the graves of other signers of the Declaration of Independence. Many of the other grave stones from the 1700s are so weathered that nothing of the engravings on them is visible. (Web Site)
Franklin Court is the site of Benjamin Franklin's house. The house was torn down long ago but a white metal frame outlines it's location in the middle of the block bounded by Market to Chestnut and Third to Fourth Streets. Sections of the original foundation and kitchen floor (the kitchen was in the basement) are visible through special windows. On Market Street is a row of rental houses Franklin had built and one is used today as a Post Office and postal museum (closed Sundays). Another one is used for the "Fragments of Franklin" exhibit which has pieces uncovered during the excavation of the site that revealed the foundation. However, the "Fragments" display has limited hours which vary by season so be sure to check the schedule of hours on their Web site before you visit. Franklin designed a walkway built into the structure so he could still easily get to Market Street from his house (which was behind the rental houses). There is also a museum on the site which has regular showings of a video on Franklin's life and accomplishments. (Do not confuse Franklin Court with Franklin Square. Franklin Square is a park of not much historic significance on the northwest corner of Sixth and Race Streets.)Tip: One block east of Franklin's rental houses (in the 200 block of Market Street) on the same side of the street is "Sonny's" where you can get one of those famous Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. They're open til 10 most nights (later on Friday and Saturday).On the block just southwest of Independence Hall (across Walnut Street) is Washington Square, a park with the Tomb of the Unknown (Revolutionary War) Soldier. This square is also the site of a mass grave of hundreds of patriot soldiers who died in jails and hospitals during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-78.
The First Bank of the United States, precursor to the Federal Reserve, was created by Alexander Hamilton who President George Washington appointed as the first Secretary of the Treasury. The sectioned columns have a rough appearance. This is not due to weathering but to the less-sophisticated methods used to cut stone in the late 1700s. This bank was later replaced by the 2nd US Bank building on Chestnut Street.
Running east of Second Street north of Arch Street is Elfreth's Alley. It is the longest surviving residential street in America with some of the homes dating as far back as 1702 and still serving as private residences. It gives you a nice insight to residential living in those days with houses built next to each other right on the edge of the street and how narrow the streets were. The 1700s equivalent of property taxes were assessed based on how wide a house was which is why you will see a lot of very narrow houses in the eastern part of Center City. House number 126 is a museum.
Two houses on Walnut Street are available for tours but they're not walk-up tours. You must get free tickets at the Visitors Center first. The Todd House is an example of how middle-class Philadelphians lived in the 1700s. The notable resident here was the widow Dolly Todd who later married James Madison. Just several houses to the east is the Bishop White House which was owned by the bishop of Christ Church and is an example of how the more well-to-do residents lived at the time. Declaration House (aka Graff House) is a re-creation of the house where Thomas Jefferson stayed when he composed the Declaration of Independence. It is open for tours from
9 amto noon. The home of Betsy Ross on Arch Street features a museum and gift shop. Betsy Ross is buried in the courtyard on the west side of the house. (Web Site)
The City Tavern was frequented by delegates of the First and Second Continental Congresses for lodging, meals, and lively discussions of the issues. The original building burned down and the current re-creation on the same site is a restaurant furnished like the original with wait-staff in period dress and serving creations using "Martha Washington's Turkey Pot Pie" receipe and Thomas Jefferson's receipe for ale. Open for lunch and dinner, be advised that it is a bit pricey with most dinner entrees costing between $20 and $30. Lunch and dinner menus, including prices, are available for viewing on line.
One of William Penn's key principals of his new city was that of religious freedom. Philadelphia was the first place in the colonies where people of all religious persuasions could practice openly. There are a large number of old churches and Quaker meeting houses in the eastern part of Center City because this religious tolerance led to a high number of churches per capita in early Philadelphia. Several current-day religions were started there including the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. The present Mother Bethel AME church (built in 1890) is the fourth to stand on the site where the original church building (a former blacksmith shop) stood in 1787. The site near Sixth and Lombard Streets (just four blocks south of Walnut) is the oldest piece of land continuously owned by African-Americans. The current church also houses a museum which highlights the life of AME's founder, Bishop Richard Allen, and contains artifacts from the first church.
Several good PDF maps, from regional to the historic area, can be found here:
The Philadelphia airport is located southwest of Center City on the other side of the Schuylkill River (airport shuttle given information below). On the east end of the airport, on the shore of the Delaware river, lies
Fort Mifflin. This fort, along with Fort Mercer on the other side of the Delaware River, were built to protect Philadelphia from British ships coming up the Delaware. Following their victory at Brandywine in September of 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia but could not get their supply ships past the forts. Referred to as "the fort that saved America," Fort Mifflin was then besieged by British troops and ships in October.
400 patriots inside the fort held off over 2,000 British troops and 250 British ships for weeks giving George Washington time to get the rest of the army to safety at Valley Forge. The fort was also used as a prison during the Civil War. It is open to the public from April through November, Wednesday through Sunday. Across the Delaware River from Fort Mifflin is Red Bank Battlefield Park where Fort Mercer stood.
Many travel guides say that Gray Line Tours operates a tour bus between Philadelphia and Valley Forge. This is no longer true. However, visiting Valley Forge is very easy (and inexpensive) to do.
SEPTA (SouthEast Pennsylvania Transport Authority) public transit has a bus route that starts in downtown (Center City) Philadelphia and ends at the Valley Forge Visitors Center (fare was $4 each way as of this writing). This is not a shuttle bus but a regular bus route. The bus route is
No. 125and it starts at 13th and Market Streets downtown. However, not all No. 125buses go all the way out to Valley Forge Historical Park. The route times also change seasonally and on weekends so be sure to check the PDF schedule of the No. 125bus route on this page:
Once you get to Valley Forge you can take one of their three-times-daily
(11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm)tour buse rides (cost is around $16). The tour bus only runs during the summer and there are only 28 seats so sign up at the tour desk as soon as you get there (the tour desk is just inside the Visitor Center main entrance to your left). The highlight of the park is the house used by George Washington as his headquarters during the Winter 77-78 encampment ($3 admission fee). Most of the house (excluding furnishings) is original inside and out. Information on the Valley Forge Visitor Center is available at:
NOTE: The park tour buses do not run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Washington's Headquarters is on the opposite end of the park from the Visitors Center and the park is huge. I can tell you from personal experience that it is no leisurely walk, particularly in hot, humid summer conditions. If you do plan to walk to Washington's Headquarters, leave yourself plenty of time and bring along plenty of water.The Visitors Center is also a museum with many 1700s-era artifacts and even George Washington's razor, drinking glass, and sundial-compass. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to view the exhibits and view the film in the theater. They also have a sizable gift shop with a wide variety of books and souvenirs.
Tip: One alternative to the park bus tour (or for a Tuesday or Wednesday visit when the park tour buses aren't running) is to rent a car and do the "driving tour" of the park. Interstate 76 will take you to Valley Forge from downtown Philadelphia. If you want to avoid the traffic of Philadelphia, take the
Route 125bus to either King of Prussia or Valley Forge (the town, not the park) and rent a car there just for the driving tour of the park.
While visiting Philadelphia in 2005 I was walking around the historic sites after dark taking night photos. I was surprised to see women walking the streets alone and people walking their dogs and sitting on park benches in Washington Square well after dark. Independence Hall, Congress Hall, and the Liberty Bell display are lighted at night and take on a whole different appearance that is worth a look.
The historic sites are in Philadelphia's "downtown" area. The many office buildings empty at
5 pmso most of the stores, etc. in that area close at 5 or 6 also. If you do stay at a hotel in the eastern part of Center City don't limit yourself to this area. There is quite a bit of after-dark activity on Second Street south of Market, and on the infamous South Street (which is about five blocks south of Walnut). South Street is the defacto boundry between Center City and South Philly. South Street from Front Street to 10th Streetis Philadelphia's night-time party district but it also has a bohemian atmosphere with an eclectic collection of shops and eateries that is worth checking out during day-light hours. (If you go to South Street after dark be sure to walk or take a cab or public transit as parking is tight.)
Take a walk west on Walnut Street up to the Rittenhouse Square area some evening. (Note that "Rittenhouse Square" is the name of a neighborhood in the western part of Center City but it's also the name of a square (park) at 18th and Walnut Streets.) Walnut Street, particularly west of Broad (14th) Street, offers a lot of restaurants and shops that are open well into the evening. Many of the restaurants on Walnut Street and around Rittenhouse Square (the park) offer outdoor dining during the summer months. The summer months also offer occasional outdoor concerts and other activities in the square and there's a Barnes and Noble book store across from the square that's open until
On the following map you can see the distance from the historic Independence Park area (green blocks on the right side of the map) and Rittenhouse Square (green block on the left side of the map). While it may look far because of all those "mini-streets" it's not that bad of a walk if you're in relatively decent physical condition
(6th Streetto 18th Streetis 12 blocks).You can also see where South Street is relative to Independence Park.
For late night dining there's a 24-hour diner-style restaurant called "Little Pete's" on the east side of 17th Street about a block south of Walnut (across the street from the Radisson Warwick hotel).
There is a 24-hour CVS Pharmacy (similar to Walgreens) on the southeast corner of 19th and Chestnut (a block north of Rittenhouse Square). Also, while not a drug store, there's a 24-hour Wawa convenience store (similar to 7-Eleven) on Walnut between 9th and 10th streets.
Hotels: A conveniently-located, reasonably-priced place to stay is the Holiday Inn at
400 Arch St.(not to be confused with the Holiday Inn Express on 14th and Walnut). It is right next to Christ Church Burial Ground where Benjamin Franklin is buried and close to all of the historic sites. The Omni Hotel at Fourth and Chestnut (one block from Independence Hall) is also in a great location but is a little more expensive. There's also a Best Western on Chestnut between Second and Third Streets. The majority of the hotels in Center City are located around the Convention Center and City Hall at Market and Broad Streets. However, my favorite place to stay is at one of the hotels in the Rittenhouse Square area in the western part of Center City. When you stay around Rittenhouse Square you get to experience more of Center City as you walk to and from the historic sites located in the eastern part of Center City (it's about a mile walk from Rittenhouse Square to Independence Hall).
At Market and Broad (14th) Streets stands Philadelphia's historic City Hall building with a massive 37-foot, 27-ton statue of William Penn atop the center tower. There is a observation deck at the base of Penn's statue which offers awesome views of the city. Admission to the tower is free and available weekdays from
9:30 amto 4 pm.However, you do have to get a time-assigned ticket from the tower desk. Just inside the City Hall entrance at the north-west corner of the building are elevators that will take you up to the 7th floor where you follow two red lines on the floor to an escalator that will take you up to the tower desk.
Just a couple blocks from City Hall is one of Philadelphia's most popular, and unique, attractions. Located at 12th and Arch Streets (across from the convention center), the Reading Terminal Market is part food bazaar (both packaged and prepared), part farmers market (where Amish merchants bring their farm-fresh produce and fresh baked goods from Lancaster County), and part crafts shop. Family-run for five generations, Bassett's Ice Cream is the only remaining vendor that has been with the market since it opened in 1892 and they still use their original counter (be sure to try their "Philadelphia Vanilla" ice cream that has specks of vanilla bean shavings in it). With its 80+ vendors, the market is only open until
6 pm (4 pmon Sundays) but some of the Amish vendors are only there Wednesday through Saturday until 5 pm.
Philadelphia is rich in African-American history and culture. In the late 1700s 70% of the Black population of Philadelphia was free. It was the center of the abolitionist movement and the Johnson House on Germantown Avenue in northwest Philadelphia was a stop on the underground railroad. The African-American Museum of Philadelphia (AAMP) is not far from Independence Park located at Seventh and Arch Streets, built on land that was part of a historic Black community. More historical and cultural sites can be found here.
The blocks in Center City tend to be long because there a lot of "mini-streets" between the major ones mentioned above. These streets are more like alleys because they are very narrow and often don't run for long distances but they do have street names (and in some cases traffic signals). Most travel guide maps don't even show them. Eastern Center City is much the way William Penn planned it in 1682. The streets are straight and the early buildings (and re-creations) are all made of brick. This was the result of lessons learned from the Great Fire of London in 1666 when over 13,000 homes were destroyed. The fire spread quickly fed by the wooden structures and fire-fighting wagons could not navigate many of the crooked streets of the city.
One heads-up about cab fares. The Philadelphia airport is located southwest of Center City (on the other side of the Schuylkill river). It cost me $22 to take a cab to from the airport to my hotel on 17th Street. If your hotel is in eastern Center City (closer to Independence Hall) it will likely cost you around $30 to take a cab to your hotel (and back to the airport). The R1 "Airport Line" subway stops at the airport terminals. There is also the
Lady Libertyairport shuttle service. They can be contacted by dialing 27 on a courtesy phone in the baggage claim area and you will be picked up near the Ground Transportation Center. Cost is $8 each way and they operate from 8 amto midnight.
Warning: Two companies offer tour rides on amphibious vehicles that go on land and into the river. One company's vehicles have "Ride the Duck" on the side and the stairs for getting into and out of the vehicle are in the back. The other company's vehicles haveI've found that when I use Yahoo Travel (Travelocity) to book a package "at the last minute" (one week out) the cost for a 3-weeknight and round-trip air package for one of the hotels mentioned above runs about $700 (for one individual). Your departure airport will have a big influence on a package's price. For example, leaving from O'Hare in Chicago will likely result in a much lower price than if leaving from Indianapolis. I've also found that Yahoo Travel (Travelocity) has lower prices than Expedia.com and comparable prices with and a wider selection than priceline.com. (I do not own Yahoo or Travelocity stock or have any other financial or personal interest in them.)
"Super Ducks"on the side and the stairs are on the side of the vehicle. Do NOT go on the Super-Ducks vehicle (stairs on the side). I can tell you from personal experience it's the biggest waste of time and money in all of Philadelphia.
Here is a Web site published by the Independence Hall Association that is loaded with clickable maps and excellent information about the historic sites around Philadelphia:
The following link will let you view lists of names of House and Senate members, along with their bios, for any given year by simply entering a year in the bottom "Year OR Congress" field (no information needs to be entered in the other fields). For example, entering 1792 in the bottom field will list all of the senators and representatives in Congress that Washington had to deal with.
The following books and videos are what I consider to be the best of my collections. Knowing what happened in and around Philadelphia during the revolutionary period and the early years of the new federal government, and what events took place in the various buildings, will give you a much greater appreciation of the sites you will see during your visit.
Liberty! - The American Revolution is an AWESOME 3-tape (VHS) set produced by PBS. Hosted by Forrest Sawyer, the six-episode series starts out covering the events that led to the colonists taking up arms, and ends with the Constitutional Convention in 1787. In between is a fascinating presentation of the Revolutionary War giving insight and details you won't find in any history book. Actors in period dress read lines taken from letters, diaries, and writings of those they portray. This series will give you a new appreciation for how amazing it was that we actually won that war. Episode 2 (the Declaration of Independence) and Episode 6 (the Constitutional Convention) deal with events in Philadelphia. (Also available on DVD.) PBS' documentaries on Jefferson and Franklin are also very good. (The Jefferson video was produced by Ken Burns and the Franklin video won an Emmy.)
Founding Fathers is a 4-tape (VHS) set produced by A&E.This production is more biographical in nature and presents more material on the early days of the revolution in Boston. It doesn't feature as many re-creations with actors in period dress as PBS productions but is a good alternative to purchasing the individual PBS videos on Franklin, Jefferson, etc. Even though it consists of 4 tapes, there is only a single 1-hour episode on each tape (whereas Liberty! has two 1-hour episodes on each of its' 3 tapes). It is best to think of Liberty! as concentrating on the events while Founding Fathers concentrates on the those involved in the events, including showing that they were, after all, humans with the same issues we all have. (Also available on DVD.)
Founding Brothers is a 4-tape (VHS) set also produced by A&E.It takes a little different spin than most early American historical works by picking up where all the others leave off. It covers the first twenty years (through Jefferson's presidency) of the new US government, with most of the first ten years taking place in Philadelphia's historic district. It was during this time that feuds between Jefferson and Hamilton led to our current two-party system. It also covers how it was a compromise at a dinner meeting that led to the selection of the site that is now Washington, DC.(Also available on DVD.)
Voices of 1776 is a collection of excerpts from letters, diaries, and other writings by those involved in the Revolutionary War. These writing are arranged in chronological order following the course of the war. Interspersed throughout are annotations by the author explaining the situation, clarifying the writer's intent, and providing continuity. It is an EXCELLENT work. You feel as if the participants of this historic conflict are telling their story to you. And at around $12 it's a bargain in every sense of the word.
Constitutional Journal - A Correspondent's Report from the Convention of 1787 is an insightful work. Author Jeffrey St. John acts as a reporter giving daily reports of the activity that took place in and around the historic assembly room in Independence Hall. Drawing on letters and writings of the delegates and others associated with the convention (because the delegates had taken an oath of secrecy so there wasn't much in the newspapers at the time), he covers everything from the monumental issues the delegates wrestled with to arrivals and absences of those involved. His telling of key votes and compromises, as well as the bits of wisdom offered by Benjamin Franklin, illustrates how representatives from the 13 separate states managed to forge a document the would unite them as a nation.
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