Real Philly History, Real Fast

Fascinating Facts and Interesting Oddities about the City's Heroes and Historic Sites

Jim Murphy
Book Cover

PB: $18.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1924-8
Publication: Jun 21

Ebook: $18.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1925-5
Publication: Jun 21

264 pages
5.25 x 8.5
45 color photos, 6 halftones, 1 map

An amusing and informative insider’s guide to the Philadelphia history you don’t know

Read "How to Use This Book" and Chapter 15 (pdf).


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.


"This book by Jim Murphy certainly ranks as one of the best guides to visiting Philadelphia.... The author has done a fine job presenting a guide that anyone can use to navigate the city and all it has to offer. It is highly recommended.
Pennsylvania Magazine

Jim Murphy has probably forgotten more Philly history than most historians know. Real Philly History, Real Fast makes readers want to discover the iconic places, and the men and women from all races and walks of life who made this city great. Each page of his excellent book contains a fact that will elicit anything from a smile to a ‘Wow!’ Billy Penn would be proud!
Tim McGrath, author of James Monroe: A Life

A breezy glide through Philly history, Murphy’s new book should give every lover of this historic place new insight into the characters, places, and events that shaped it through four centuries.
Sam Katz, Executive Producer, History Making Productions

Even the most knowledgeable expert on Philadelphia history is likely to learn some new and interesting facts from Real Philly History, Real Fast. Jim Murphy has a way of bringing Philadelphia’s obscure and offbeat history to light in a wonderfully readable fashion.”
Paul Steinke, Executive Director, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia

Table of Contents

How to Use This Book
Map of Locations

Part I William Penn’s Huge Impact on Philadelphia
1. A City of Churches
2. Green from the Get-Go
3. Philly’s Flag
4. Welcome Park

Part II Military Leaders
5. Captain Gustavus Conyngham
6. Commodore John Barry
7. Commodore Stephen Decatur Jr.

Part III Gone—But Not Forgotten
8. Acadian Connection
9. The Gaskill Street Baths
10. The Grand Battery (or the Association Battery)
11. Washington Avenue Immigration Station

Part IV Heroes, Sung and Unsung
12. Charles Willson Peale
13. Francis Daniel Pastorius
14. Isaiah Zagar
15. James Forten
16. Lucretia Mott
17. Richard Allen
18. Robert Smith
19. W. E. B. Du Bois

Part V Mob Rule
20. Bible Riots
21. Lombard Street Riot

Part VI In the Neighborhoods
22. Ninth Street Market (aka the Italian Market)
23. Chinatown
24. Philadelphia’s LGBT Community

Part VII Hidden in Plain Sight
25. Ars Medendi
26. The Dream Garden Tiffany Mosaic
27. Independence National Historical Park
28. Irish Memorial
29. Mason-Dixon Survey
30. Old Pine Street Churchyard

Part VIII Marvelous Museums
31. The African American Museum in Philadelphia
32. National Museum of American Jewish History
33. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Part IX Historic Architecture
34. Athenaeum of Philadelphia
35. Ben Franklin Bridge
36. Carpenters’ Hall
37. Christ Church
38. City Hall
39. Gloria Dei Church (Old Swedes’)
40. Masonic Temple
41. The PSFS Building
42. Reading Terminal Market
43. Sparks Shot Tower
44. Water Works
45. U.S. Custom House

Part X Where History Comes Alive
46. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
47. Library Company of Philadelphia

Part XI Beyond Center City
48. Cliveden (or the Chew House)
49. Fort Mifflin
50. Taller Puertorriqueño
51. The Lazaretto


About the Author(s)

A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Jim Murphy is a certified tour guide who does frequent in-person and online presentations on “The Amazing Success of William Penn.” A copywriter and former creative director at Devon Direct Marketing and Advertising, he has owned a marketing communications business since 2004 and was the editor of Choices, an award-winning magazine published by the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union. He has been researching Philadelphia history since 2010 and would love to speak to your group.