The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia is an interesting project to produce an online/offline pairing of resources chronicling the many facets of one of America’s oldest cities. Through “lively and informed essays, original maps, and new research on topics of current interest,” the project’s goal is to “create a legacy of understanding for generations to come.”

Chris Satullo ’75, the former editorial page editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and now a key figure at public broadcaster WHYY, is the latest contributor to this project, weighing in with an interesting essay on the city’s name as “a long duel between destiny and irony”:

We can’t know all the thoughts that coursed through William Penn’s mind when he chose Philadelphia as the name for his new city, tucked onto the peninsula between the Delaware River and the Schuylkill.

What we do know is that he chose boldly, aiming for the vault of heaven, daring irony to strike.

Brotherly love does not imply the absence of conflict. Have you ever seen young brothers together? Their bond, strong as cement though it might be, gets expressed often as not through competing, jousting, gibes and dares… [and] [l]ike the nation that chose this city (and not by accident) as the spot to declare, then define, itself, Philadelphia has struggled to define brother. Who is inside the circle, who not?

If you’ve lived in Philadelphia or visited the city and pondered the name “Philadelphia,” read the whole thing.

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