Quest for Freedom

Burning of Pennsylvania Hall


The arrival in 1684 of the British merchant ship Isabella in Philadelphia with a cargo of 150 Africans to be sold as slaves had moral, social, and economic consequences that  impacted Philadelphia in profound ways. The unpaid labor of enslaved Africans helped to build and shape the social and cultural life of the colonial city. In the aftermath of the American Revolution, Pennsylvania passed the Gradual Abolition Act in 1780 that set in motion a process to eliminate slavery from Pennsylvania by 1847. The United States Constitution (1787) left the question of slavery up to each state thereby setting in motion decades of struggle pitting those advocating abolition of all slavery on one side against those who wanted to maintain the status quo.

Image shown: Burning of Pennsylvania Hall, 1838 John Sartain (1808-1897); engraving.

Collection Research Essays

Portraits before 1840 in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection at the Philadelphia History Museum

In spring 2005, the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent (PHM) was approached by the Museum Loan Network to participate in its new initiative, Energizing Early American Art.  The initiative was designed to reinvigorate the study of pre-1840 American portraiture, by identifying and making available for loan paintings that may be rarely shown in home institutions and by identifying comparable paintings that may inspire scholarship. 

The African American Experience in Philadelphia

Neighborhood Tours


Philadelphia is known famously as “a city of neighborhoods.” Originally built with the grid system, the city resembles more of a patchwork quilt, with each neighborhood giving Philadelphia its own distinct identity. As diverse centers full of many different nationalities, cultures, customs, traditions and lore, the historical importance of neighborhoods in Philly cannot be overstated.
The following information gives you just a glimpse into the details of the fabric of the city. We hope it not only opens your eyes and ears to the streets of Philadelphia, but makes you want to get out and explore them, too.  


Philadelphia History Museum
15 South 7th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Museum Hours and Admission
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
$10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 students and teens (13-18), children 12 and under free. Museum Members and active military free. $20 for Family Pack.

Administrative Office Hours
Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
215.685.4830 voice; 215.685.4837 fax

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