The Birthplace of the United States Marine Corps
The Tun Tavern, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania near the Delaware River, holds a special place in history. It is traditionally regarded as the site where the United States Marine Corps held its first recruitment drive during the American Revolution.
On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress commissioned the innkeeper and former Quaker, Samuel Nicholas, to raise two battalions of Marines in Philadelphia. As the first order of business, John Adams nominated Samuel Nicholas as the first Marine Officer, who became the acting Commandant of the newly formed Marines. Captain Nicholas enlisted Tun Tavern’s owner and popular patriot, Robert Mullan, to become his first Chief Marine Recruiter.
Historically, Tun Tavern is regarded as the “First Brew House” built in Philadelphia in 1686, and among the very first in the country. Samuel Carpenter’s purpose in building the Tavern was to commence the development of the Philadelphia waterfront which he intended as a site for various businesses. It was located on Philadelphia’s historic waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley leading to Carpenter’s Wharf near what is today known as “Penn’s Landing”. The Tavern soon developed a reputation for fine beers in the City of Philadelphia and maintained that reputation for over a century. Its name is derived from the old English word “Tun” meaning measured cask, barrel, or keg of beer.
In the early 1740’s the then proprietor expanded the Tavern into “Peggy Mullan’s Red Hot Beef Steak Club at Tun Tavern,” which was known to host George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin and on occasion, the 1st and 2nd Continental Congress. In 1756, Colonel Benjamin Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia and utilized the Tavern as a gathering place to recruit the area’s first regiment of soldiers to suppress Indian uprisings.
During the American Revolution, many important political discussions took place in the inns and taverns of Philadelphia, including the founding of the Marine Corps. Tun Tavern was a significant meeting place for other groups and individuals. In 1756, Benjamin Franklin used the inn as a recruitment gathering point for the Pennsylvania militia as it prepared to fight Indian uprisings which later became known as the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The tavern later hosted a meeting of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Continental Congress. George Washington was appointed to command the Continental Army in June 1775, the Continental Congress honored him at a banquet at Tun Tavern. In Fall 1775, the Naval Committee, headed by John Adams, met at The Tun Tavern, and crafted the Articles of War to guide America’s new Navy. Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and many members of the Continental Congress met informally in Tun Tavern.
In October 1775 a seven-man Naval Committee including John Adams appointed by Congress crafted articles of war to build America’s first naval fleet, less than a month after the Navy was created, the Second Continental Congress saw the need for Marines.
On November 10, 1775, Robert Mullan, the proprietor of the Tavern and son of Peggy Mullan, was commissioned by an act of Congress to raise the first two battalions of Marines, under the leadership of Capt. Samuel Nicholas, the first appointed Commandant of the Continental Marines. Nicholas’s grandfather was also a member of the Tun Tavern Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, and it is this relationship between Mullan, Nicholas, Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, and the Tavern which resulted in Tun Tavern being acknowledged as the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps.
A committee of the Continental Congress met at Tun Tavern to draft a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore. The resolution was approved on November 10, 1775, officially forming the Continental Marines.
As the first order of business, Samuel Nicholas became Commandant of the newly formed Marines. Tun Tavern’s owner and popular patriot, Robert Mullan, became his first captain and recruiter. They began gathering support and were ready for action by early 1776.
So, when it comes to the first Marine recruiter at Tun Tavern, it was none other than Robert Mullan, who played a pivotal role in shaping the early days of the Marine Corps. His legacy lives on as an integral part of Marine Corps history.
Tun Tavern was destroyed in 1781 in a fire. Its original site in Philadelphia at Water Street is now occupied by Interstate 95.
As of 2023, there are an estimated three million active and retired U.S. Marines, and 1.6 million Marine Veterans worldwide who have been exposed in their military training to the historical significance of Tun Tavern. Each year on November 10th, around the world, Marines toast the Marine’s birthplace on the most significant date in the history of the Corps with a celebration of the brave spirit which compelled these men and thousands since to defend our country and its citizens as United States Marines.
Some of Hotel 2/5 Reunion Attendees toasting Tun Tavern and the Marine Corps Birthday in Philadelphia, PA on November 10, 2013.
Like the Continental Navy, the Continental Marines were disbanded after the Revolution but reborn in 11 July 1798 in Philadelphia, then the Nation’s Capital. In Congress Hall, Congress passed an Act creating the “corps of marines.” signed the Act and appointed the first official Commandant, William Ward Burrows, who created the famed Marine Band in Philadelphia.
JOURNAL OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS
(Philadelphia) Friday, November 10, 1775
Resolved, That two Battalions of marines be raised, consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress: that they be
distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of. Resolved Ordered that a copy of the above be transmitted to the General.
Written at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania November 10, 1775.