Philadelphia's original public market was located where High (later Market) Street intersected Front Street, close to the Delaware River. The city built its first market house in the middle of Second and High Streets. By 1809, city-owned market sheds, called shambles, lined the middle of High Street, extending west to Sixth Street. New markets opened in other parts of the city as the population grew.
Today's Reading Terminal Market had its roots in the Butchers' and Farmers' and Franklin Markets, both located on the 1100 block of Market Street. In 1890 the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company purchased this block for its new terminal. The merchants' refusal to relocate for the new building resulted in an agreement to erect a new market tucked beneath the train shed and tracks.
"Where steaks and cutlets line the reeking way;
And rounds and sirloins tell of cattle one!
Here hangs a porker's face, --and there a jowl—
While yonder "roaster" swelters for the dish;
And every hook is garnished with a fowl,
Or choicest specimen of flesh or fowl."
--A.M'M From Wild's Panorama, 1838
"...here the thrifty yeomen of Delaware,
Chester, and Montgomery counties may be
Seen selling mutton, veal, beef, and poultry
Of their own raising and preparing, "pound butter," the product of their won dairies, with
All the vegetables and fruits in season fresh
From their won gardens and orchards."
From Philadelphia in 1868 (Lippincott's Press, 1868)
Guide book for the visiting members of the American Pharmaceutical Association