Philly St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations Predate America’s Founding

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a staple in Philadelphia. After a little research, we found out it all started with a small dinner and Benjamin Franklin was on the guest list.

“This is the invitation sent to Franklin. This is in Franklin’s papers which we have here,” said Patrick Spero, librarian at the American Philosophical Society in Old City.

Spero took us inside a vault and showed us the invitation for Benjamin Franklin to join Irish citizens for a celebration at City Tavern on March 17, 1787.

“Two hundred and thirty years ago they were celebrating St. Pat’s at City Tavern and you can still do that today,” Spero said.

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Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day celebrations began in 1771, five years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“In 1771, a group of Irishmen called the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick started a dinner that was basically the start of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” said historian Mikaela Maria, who specializes in Philadelphia Irish history.

Maria says Philadelphia has some of the richest Irish history in the United States. She said George Washington gave his troops a day off on St. Patrick’s Day because so many of them were Irish.

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