cover of book
by Jim Murphy
Temple University Press, 2021
Paper: 978-1-4399-1924-8 | eISBN: 978-1-4399-1925-5
Library of Congress Classification F158.36.M87 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 974.811


Philadelphia is known as the home of vibrant colonial history: the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Independence Hall. But the City of Brotherly Love is also home to—and less well known for—its quirky history. The country’s first quarantine station was located here. One of Philly’s clocks has a face larger than Big Ben’s in London. And a unique skill of Black abolitionist James Forten saved him from a life of West Indian servitude (and “Forten” was not even his real name).  

In Real Philly History, Real Fast, Jim Murphy provides an original tour of the city. He highlights artistic gems including the Dream Garden Tiffany mosaic and Isaiah Zagar’s glittering Magic Gardens. He profiles intriguing historical figures from military leader Commodore Barry to civil rights heroes like Lucretia Mott. Murphy also explores neighborhoods from Chinatown to the Italian Market and the unique architectural details of Carpenters’ Hall and the PSFS building.  

Each chapter provides a pithy story about a historical person or site, along with bullet points featuring interesting oddities, and nearby attractions along with fun facts such as: Why there are so many churches? What is the Philadelphia Eagles’ connection to the U.S. Custom House? Which famous artist may have been Philadelphia’s first nude model? And where was the Liberty Bell secretly damaged? (We didn’t do it!)   

This is Philly history in bites that are as digestible as a soft pretzel with mustard.

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