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Presidential Visits to Philadelphia

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2021

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Presidents have come to Philadelphia for many occasions over the past two hundred plus years

A presidential visit is a big deal. It's not often the President of the United States comes to town, though such an occurrence is a more frequent occurrence in some cities than others.

As America's Birthplace and one of America's largest cities, Philadelphia has been visited by nearly every United States President throughout history. Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, both historical sites from the country's founding are filled with symbolic importance and are a frequent centerpiece of any Presidential Visit to Philadelphia. Presidents have often reflected on George Washington and the Founding Fathers of America for inspiration to guide them in their day. To that end, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell have served as the backdrop for many presidential speeches throughout America's history during which the ideals of the Founding Fathers had been extolled.

Due to the importance of these historic appearances and speeches, The Constitutional Walking Tour has been producing a series of articles dedicated to Presidential Visits to Philadelphia. The overview below provides some more information about these Presidential Visits as well as a list of blogs detailing some of these historic Presidential Visits to Philadelphia.

Harry Truman Inspects the Liberty Bell while visiting Independence Hall - October 6, 1948 - The National Park Service

Fourth of July Celebrations

As the Birthplace of America, many presidents have found their way to Philadelphia on America's Birthday, the Fourth of July. A July 4th speech from a sitting president has been a somewhat regular celebration throughout Philadelphia's history. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton are just a few of the many Presidents who have given a Fourth of July speech in Philadelphia.

Bill Clinton Visits the Liberty Bell on July 4, 1993 - The Philadelphia Inquirer

Historic Anniversaries

As America's Birthplace, Philadelphia has also hosted many national celebrations commemorating historic anniversaries of events that took place in Philadelphia during the time of the American Revolution. America's 100th, 150th and 200th birthdays had all brought the President of the United States to Philadelphia. Similarly, in 1987, President Ronald Reagan came to Philadelphia to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution at Independence Hall.

President Ronald Reagan speaks to a crowd in front of Independence Hall on the 200th Anniversary of the United States Constitution - The Boston Globe

Campaigning and Conventions

During national elections, Philadelphia is often an important city in the battleground state in Pennsylvania. As such, Philadelphia has also drawn nearly every President in American history to Philadelphia at one point or another for a campaign stop. Numerous political conventions have also taken place in Philadelphia, most notably in 1948 when all three of the major political conventions of the year were held in Philadelphia. Philadelphia most recently hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2016. 

FDR at Franklin Field for the 1936 Democratic National Convention - Philadelphia Inquirer

Introducing Major Presidential Policies

When introducing a major piece of policy or legislation to the public, impressions matter. Cognizant of this fact, many Presidents throughout America's history have attempted to tie their own legislative goals and policies to the political views of America's Founding Fathers. And what better place to make that connection than the Birthplace of America? Major Presidential Policies that were either signed into law or introduced to the public in Philadelphia have included William Howard Taft's creation of the League to Enforce Peace, Richard Nixon's Federal Revenue Sharing Program, and Bill Clinton's Summit for America's Future.

Nixon Signs Revenue Sharing Bill at Independence Hall - October 20, 1972 - The Philadelphia Inquirer

Residing in Philadelphia

Some Presidents never got a chance to "visit" Philadelphia because they lived here! While Philadelphia served as the Capital of the United States in the 18th Century, both of America's first two Presidents, George Washington and John Adams, lived in Philadelphia at the President's House. While Washington and Adams are the only Presidents to have lived in Philadelphia while serving as President of the United States, other presidents such William Henry Harrison and Ulysses Grant both resided in Philadelphia during their lifetimes.

The Presidents' House Site - Location of the House where Washington and Adams Resided while President of the United States

Presidential Visit Blogs

What follows is a growing list of Presidential Visits to Philadelphia, and this list will be periodically updated as more blogs are published:

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