During Colonial times, Philadelphia was one of the major ports in North America. Lying at the confluence of the mighty Delaware river and the smaller Schuylkill river it carried a significant amount of commerce back and forth from Europe to the New World. The Delaware River was deep enough for most of the huge sailing ships of the day to connect right up the docks and easily load or off-load their cargo. Navigation was usually clear from the Atlantic ocean to the great port. Unlike present day, the presence of some ice on the river could lead to a slowing of the ability of ships to navigate any ice fields on the river. Unlike today if bitter cold struck there was no way to break the ice and the wooden ships hulls were vulnerable to damage and even ships sinking from significant ice. When the river froze over solid commerce stopped. January 2 was a day of great activity in the Port of Philadelphia in these times gone by after Christmas and New year’s Day, but it came to pass that on January 2, 1740 the Delaware became completely frozen over and shipping came to a halt for the winter.
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