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Indian Queen Tavern
(4th & Chestnut/Market Streets)

Indian Queen TavernIn addition to her boarding house, Mary House also owned the Indian Queen Tavern. Built in 1759, it was home to five of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention: Gorham, Strong, Mason, Pierce, and Bassett. According to folklore, many important negotiations took place there after the daily sessions in the State House were over. Word has it that the "Connecticut Compromise" was hammered out at the Tavern as well as the decision by the supporters of the Virginia Plan not to challenge the Compromise. What is recorded is that the five Convention delegates residing at the Indian Queen requested the honor of Franklin's "company to dinner at their Quarters on Monday next at half after three o'clock." Monday next was July 3rd, the day before Independence Day.

Menassah Cutler, heavily involved in the negotiations over the Northwest Ordinance, notes in his journal on July 13th, that he saw Madison, Mason, Alexander Martin, Hamilton, Williamson, Rutledge, and Pinckney having dinner at the Indian Queen. Several historians interpret this meeting as a backroom deal on the slavery question.

The Indian Queen Tavern—there was also an Indian King Tavern during the colonial era—was licensed to sell wine and spirits in addition to beer and cider. These fancier taverns, that often provided lodgings, served the politically and intellectually inclined. They were distinguished from "humbler taverns," that sold beer and cider to the "ordinary" Philadelphian, and unlicensed "tippling houses," located near the waterfront. No visible evidence of the Indian Tavern remains, but it is known to be just to the west of Franklin Court.

According to David Stewart, "The Indian Queen boasted sixteen rooms for lodgers, plus four garret rooms. A visitor there in 1787 described being greeted by a liveried servant in coat, waistcoat, and ruffled shirt. The servant produced two London magazines, called for a barber, brought a bowl for washing off road dust, and served tea."

No doubt lots of interesting events took place at the Indian Queen Tavern. According to Carl Van Doren, author of The Great Rehearsal, "Much discussion, unrecorded and so only to be guessed at, went on at the Indian Queen, a tavern in Fourth Street near Chestnut which had already begun to be the informal headquarters of Convention delegates."

But here is one non-event that brought considerable relief to delegate William Pierce of Georgia.According to Pierce:

"When the Convention first opened at Philadelphia, there were a number of propositions brought forward as great leading principles for the new Government to be established for the United States. A copy of these propositions was given to each Member with the injunction to keep everything a profound secret. One morning, by accident, one of the Members dropt his copy of the propositions, which being luckily picked up by General Mifflin was presented to General Washington, our President, who put it in his pocket. After the debates of the Day were over, and the question for adjournment was called for, the General arose from his seat, and previous to his putting the question addressed the Convention in the following manner:

Gentlemen: I am sorry to find that some one Member of this Body, has been so neglectful of the secrets of the Convention as to drop in the State House a copy of their proceedings, which by accident was picked up and delivered to me this Morning. I must entreat Gentlemen to be more careful, least our transactions get into the News Papers, and disturb the public repose by premature speculations. I know not whose Paper it is, but there it is (throwing it down on the table), let him who owns it take it.

"At the same time he bowed, picked up his Hat, and quitted the room with a dignity so severe that every Person seemed alarmed; for my part I was extremely so, for putting my hand in my pocket I missed my copy of the same Paper, but advancing up to the Table my fears soon dissipated; I found it to be the hand writing of another Person. When I went to my lodgings at the Indian Queen, I found my copy in a coat pocket which I had pulled off that Morning. It is something remarkable that no Person ever owned the Paper."

The Indian Queen Tavern was the largest in Philadelphia and its "companion," the Indian King Tavern, was located on the southeast corner of Market and Third. There is no remembrance of the Indian Queen Tavern or the Indian King Tavern in 21st century Philadelphia.

Below is a twenty-first century view of the probable location of the Indian Queen Tavern.

21st Century View of the Probable Location of the Indian Queen Tavern