Philadelphia should be considered the birthplace of weird America. From the very beginning, Philadelphians have been up to some strange shenanigans – from Ben Franklin’s desire to be electrocuted, to the whole “starting a revolution” thing. It’s no wonder that the history of Philadelphia is dotted with interesting events that aren’t taught in our history classes – there simply isn’t enough time to teach them all! How many of these weird Philly facts did you know?
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1. Philadelphia was home to the first computer.
In 1946, The University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering created the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), considered the world's first electronic computer.
2. The only tall ship restaurant in the world is docked at Penn's Landing.
Not only is the Moshulu the only tall ship restaurant in the world, but she has some incredible history! The elegant ship was seized by the United States and hidden in Oregon during World War I, seized by the Germans in World War II, was featured in
The Godfather II, and purchased by the Walt Disney corporation - yet somehow, she made it to Philadelphia. These days, you can enjoy a fine meal either above deck or below.
3. Slices of Albert Einstein's Brain are hiding in Rittenhouse Square.
The Mutter Museum is one of only two places in the world where you can see the genius physicist's brain, and the story of how it got here is quite weird. It all started on the night that Albert Einstein died in Princeton, NJ in 1955. Despite Einstein's specific request that his body was not to be studied after his death, the pathologist on duty removed his brain (and, strangely, his eyes) and took it with him to the University of Pennsylvania to be dissected and preserved on over 200 slides.
In November 2011, the Mütter Museum received a call from Lucy Rorke-Adams, offering a box of the brain slides. They had been handed down from Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who initially removed the brain, to a chain of neuropathologists, and ended up with Rorke-Adams. The only other place in the world where you can see Einstein's Brain is the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, MD, but they rarely put the slides on display.
4. The Curse of Billy Penn kept Philly teams losing for decades.
When the construction of One Liberty Place was completed in 1987, it was the first skyscraper to stand taller than City Hall's William Penn statue. From that moment on, Philadelphians began to believe in The Curse of Billy Penn. For the next 29 years, Philadelphia sports teams were kept from winning any championship, and in general, were not successful. In 2007, the height of One Liberty was eclipsed by the new Comcast Center, and at the top, a small replica of the City Hall statue was placed. The Phillies, against all odds, won the World Series the following year, breaking the curse.
5. Philadelphia is home to many "hospital firsts."
Philadelphia was home to the first hospital in America, which was founded by Dr. Thomas Bond and Ben Franklin (of course!) in 1751. The Pennsylvania Hospital intended to care for "the sick, poor, and insane." Later, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) became the first pediatric-only hospital. And, to add one more to the list, Fox Chase Cancer Center was the first cancer-focused hospital in the country. To put it simply: if you get sick, you want to be in Philadelphia.
6. Toynbee Tiles got their start on the streets of Philadelphia.
If you're in the habit of looking down when you walk through Philly, chances are you've seen these weird tiles on the street. They began to appear in the 1980s across North America (and even a few down into South America). They all say the same thing: "TOYNBEE IDEA IN MOViE `2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER." To this day, nobody
really knows what, exactly, they mean or who created them, but there are plenty of theories out there. We do know that they first started here in Philadelphia, and there are more here than anywhere else. If you see a Toynbee Tile in another city, it may even reference a Philadelphia address!
7. The first Moon Tree was planted in Washington Square Park.
For some reason, NASA decided to send tree seeds to the Moon with Apollo 14. The seeds came back with the astronauts and were ceremoniously planted; the very first one was planted in Washington Square Park on May 6, 1975.
8. Napoleon's Death Chair haunts Chestnut Hill.
Baleroy Mansion was built in 1911 in Chestnut Hill. It's considered one of the most haunted places in the world and is frequently the site of paranormal investigations. For a few years, the mansion was home to an antique chair once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte. Over the years, four people who sat in the chair died nearly immediately afterwards, so the owner of Baleroy put the chair in storage, and never again allowed guests to sit in his chair of death.
9. America's first serial killer was executed at Moyamensing Prison.
You know where the Acme at Passyunk Avenue and Reed Street stands? It used to be Moyamensing Prison. The prison opened in 1835, and the infamous H.H. Holmes - one of America's first serial killers - was executed here for his gruesome string of murders around the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. He was convicted for nine murders, though many believe the true number of Holmes' victims could be in the
hundreds. He was hanged, but the hanging didn't go quite as planned and it took nearly 20 minutes before Holmes to be pronounced dead.
Do you know of any other unusual trivia about Philadelphia? Share your favorite facts in the comments below!