15 Interesting Facts About Pennsylvania You Need to Know

Did you know that a fire has been burning in Pennsylvania since 1962 and it’s estimated to continue for over 250 years? Now that’s something!

Known as the “Keystone State” and the “Quaker State,” Pennsylvania became the second state to join the United States of America on December 12, 1787. It’s also the fifth most populous state with a population of 12.78 million people (as of 2021).

Pennsylvania shares its borders with New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York. It’s the 33rd largest state with a total of 46,055 square miles (119,283 square kilometers) of land and water. The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg, located just southeast of the state’s center.

But enough of the basics, let’s dive into some more interesting facts about the Keystone State!

People May Have Been Living in Pennsylvania for Up to 19,000 Years

It’s believed that a group of people called the Paleo-Indians populated the Americas and traveled by land from the far east of modern-day Russia across the Bering Strait into modern-day Alaska sometime around 15-13,000 BC. The Meadowcroft Shelter, located 27 miles (43 kilometers) away from Pittsburgh, holds items indicating that people have been living in the region for much longer than commonly believed. Spear tips and knives recovered from the site have been radiocarbon dated to be as old as 16,000, if not 19,000 years old, and the style of the tools is notably different from tools created by later civilizations.

Several Native American Tribes Called Pennsylvania Home Before Europeans Arrived

When European explorers first made contact with Native Americans in modern-day Pennsylvania, they discovered that the tribes were generally divided into two distinct language groups. Despite this, each tribe had its own unique cultures and practices. Some of the tribes included the Susquehannocks and the many tribes under the banner of the Iroquoian Confederacy, who spoke Iroquoian languages, and the Lenape and Shawnee, who spoke varieties of the Algonquian language. Many more tribes lived in the region, but some disappeared without a trace when European diseases ravaged the land.

The First Europeans to Explore Pennsylvania Were British

Exploration of the Americas began in 1492 when Christopher Columbus, in service of Spanish monarchs, circumnavigated the world. In 1497, John Cabot, an Italian in the service of the English Crown, became the first European to explore the coastline of North America, and the French mapped parts of Pennsylvania from a distance in 1524. The first European to set foot in the region was the English explorer John Smith in 1608, as far as records show.

The First Europeans to Colonize Parts of Pennsylvania Were Swedish

Sweden was a major naval power in the 17th century and attempted to claim North America. In 1638, the colony of New Sweden was established on the Delaware River, and its capital was later moved to Tinicum Island in Pennsylvania in 1643. The colony was founded as a place of religious freedom and named after William Penn’s father. The Pennsylvania Colony allowed freedom of religion for Christians, resulting in many Amish and Mennonite settlers. Pennsylvania was the second state to join the United States, and its people stood ready during the American Revolution. The Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most important battles of the American Civil War, took place in Pennsylvania. President Abraham Lincoln delivered a historic speech at the dedication ceremony of the National Cemetery of Gettysburg.

During his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln spoke fervently about topics related to the founding of the United States.

Lincoln discussed how the Civil War was a true test for the Union, the significant and deserving sacrifice made by the Gettysburg soldiers, and the importance of starting fresh.

Pennsylvania earned the nickname the Keystone State for a good reason.

Whenever someone refers to Pennsylvania as the Keystone State, they acknowledge the state and colony’s pivotal role in creating the United States as we know it today.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a keystone is a central stone in an arch that secures it and prevents it from falling apart.

The state earned its nickname due to its central political and economic role in shaping both the colonies and the United States during its founding.

The state symbol of Pennsylvania is a keystone, inspired by this nickname.

Pennsylvania is the top producer of potato chips in the US.

It appears that Pennsylvanians have a love for snacks, particularly the humble potato chip.

The town of Hanover, Pennsylvania, has the highest production of potato chips (and other snacks like pretzels and chocolate) in the surrounding counties compared to any other location worldwide.

There is no single explanation for why Pennsylvanians love their chips.

They tend to prefer smaller local brands over larger commercial brands like Lays, with the larger brands competing for shelf space in Pennsylvania’s grocery stores.

A fire has been burning in Pennsylvania since 1962.

In 1890, Centralia, Pennsylvania, was a thriving coal-mining town with a population of 2,700 people.

Despite the Great Depression’s impact on coal production, mining continued until 1962.

In May 1962, the city council attempted to reduce their overflowing landfill by setting fire to it while trying to clean up the area.

Unfortunately, the fire accidentally ignited neighboring coal mines, leading to the closure of all other coal mines due to the growing coal fire.

All attempts to extinguish the fire failed, and over time, the fires grew to the point where the streets burned, and the town became uninhabitable.

In 1992, the United States Congress bought out all remaining residents, and Pennsylvania condemned the area, removing all but a few stubborn residents.

Reighard’s gas station is the oldest gas station in the US, located in Pennsylvania.

Reighard’s gas station, located in Altoona, Pennsylvania, is a living piece of US history.

It has been in continuous operation since it first started selling gasoline in 1909.

Initially, Reighard’s was a blacksmith, and during the early 20th century, gasoline was purchased from blacksmiths.

As the automobile industry grew, Reighard’s transformed into a full-time gas station.

A small town in Pennsylvania is recognized as the “mushroom capital of the world.”

The Quakers, who were early European settlers in Pennsylvania during the 1800s, brought mushroom spores to Kennett Square and began cultivating them. Today, the region produces over 1 million pounds of mushrooms annually, with most of Chester County contributing to this yield. This county alone produces more than 50% of the entire annual US mushroom crop.

The Philly Cheesesteak, a popular sandwich, was invented in the 1930s by Pat Olivieri, who ran a small hotdog stand outside the Italian Market in Philadelphia. He decided to try something new for lunch and cooked some cut-up meat from a local butcher, placing it in an Italian bun with onions. A regular customer, a taxi driver, loved it and insisted that Olivieri start selling the sandwich. Over time, the recipe changed due to customer requests, adding cheese to create the now-famous Philly Cheesesteak.

Pennsylvania is home to the largest Amish community in the US. The colony was founded as a refuge for persecuted Christian sects, which attracted many Amish people to the area in the 18th Century. The Amish were attracted to the colony’s freedom to practice their religion without persecution. The oldest and largest Amish community in the US is located in modern-day Lancaster County and dates back to the 1720s. The community currently has around 30,000 people, which is twice the population of a few decades ago.

Pennsylvania is a state with a rich history, and there is much more to it than just Philadelphia and Philly Cheesesteaks. The combination of modern Philadelphia and traditional Amish culture makes this state a fascinating place to visit.

FAQ

1. What is the origin of Pennsylvania’s name?

Pennsylvania was named after William Penn, an English Quaker who was granted the land by King Charles II in 1681. Penn named the colony “Penn’s Woods” or Sylvania, which means “woodland” in Latin. Later, King Charles II added “Penn” to the name in honor of William Penn’s father.

2. What is the state bird of Pennsylvania?

The state bird of Pennsylvania is the ruffed grouse. It is a medium-sized bird that lives in forests and is known for its distinctive drumming sound.

3. What is the state flower of Pennsylvania?

The state flower of Pennsylvania is the mountain laurel. It is a beautiful evergreen shrub that is known for its pink and white flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer.

4. What is the state tree of Pennsylvania?

The state tree of Pennsylvania is the eastern hemlock. It is a large evergreen tree that can grow up to 100 feet tall and is found throughout the state.

5. What is the capital of Pennsylvania?

The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg. It is located in the central part of the state and is home to many important government buildings and institutions.

6. What is the largest city in Pennsylvania?

The largest city in Pennsylvania is Philadelphia. It is located in the southeastern part of the state and is known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and vibrant nightlife.

7. What is the state motto of Pennsylvania?

The state motto of Pennsylvania is “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.” It reflects the values and ideals that the state was founded upon and continues to uphold.

8. What are some famous landmarks in Pennsylvania?

Some famous landmarks in Pennsylvania include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Gettysburg National Military Park, Hershey’s Chocolate World, and the Andy Warhol Museum.

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