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60 Interesting Facts About Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is the 5th most populous, the 33rd most extensive, and the 9th most populated of the 50 states of the United States. It is located in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Pennsylvania attained statehood on December 12, 1787, becoming the 2nd state to join the union. Its six bordering states are New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey. Pennsylvania (nicknamed: the Keystone State) has 67 counties. The state’s capital is Harrisburg. The postal abbreviation for Pennsylvania is PA. With these facts about Pennsylvania, let us learn more about its history, economy, geography, people and more.

By Sriram NadarajanPublished about a year ago 8 min read
60 Interesting Facts About Pennsylvania
Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

Facts about Pennsylvania

1. Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn. The name of the state comes from the name of the founder’s father (Admiral William Penn) and not his own. The founder William Penn wanted the state to be named “Sylvania”. (Sylvania is a Latin word meaning “woodlands.”)[2]

2. It is one of the thirteen original (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island) founding states of the United States.[1,14]

3. Did you know that of the original thirteen colonies, Pennsylvania is the only that does not border the Atlantic Ocean? Along with New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland, Pennsylvania is classified as a Middle Atlantic state.

4. In October 1682, the younger William brought 360 settlers who believed in religious freedom and a fair government to form this 12th of the 13 English colonies.

5. Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, is home to Independence Hall where the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States’ Constitution were drafted. Philadelphia is also the first planned city in North America.

6. Pennsylvania is the second state, after Delaware, to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America. At the time it was the most ethnically and religiously diverse of the thirteen States.

7. The Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American Independence, is located in Pennsylvania. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park. The bell was commissioned from London in 1751 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. The bell was rung at the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.[5]

8. During the American Revolution, the Liberty Bell was moved from Philadelphia to Allentown. It was returned after the British evacuated Philadelphia. On the bell Pennsylvania is spelled with only one “n”. When the bell was created this was an acceptable form of spelling Pennsylvania.

9. On September 19, 1982, the first internet emoticon, the humble smiley, was invented at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh by Professor Dr. Scott Fahlman. Today, according to some estimate, more than 6 billion emoticons are sent every day.[26]

10. Benjamin Franklin and Bill Cosby are the famous Pennsylvanians.[2]

11. The Pennsylvania Packet and daily Advertiser was the nation’s first daily newspaper. It was published first on September 21, 1784.

12. Pennsylvania is almost rectangular in shape.[3]

13. The first piano in America was built by Johann Behrent in Philadelphia in 1775.

14. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has the highest density of haunted houses and hence it is also considered one of the most haunted cities in the U.S.

15. Before the establishment of Washington D.C. as the permanent capital of the United States of America; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the nation’s capital between 1790 and 1800s.[2]

16. Did you know that on September 27, 1777, Lancaster served as the country’s capital for just one day?[24]

17. The first computer in the world–The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer–was invented at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946.[4]

18. The first Zoo in the United States of America was opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1874.[4]

19. And the first public library was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 in Philadelphia.[4]

20. Philadelphia is also the place where the first American Flag was sewn in 1777 by Betsy Ross.[4]

21. In 1883, the City Hotel in Pennsylvania was the first building to be lit with Thomas Edison’s three-wire system.

22. Pennsylvania is also home to one of the largest manufacturer of chocolates in the world – “Hershey”. The company is headquartered in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The company’s products are sold in over 60 countries.[7]

23. The license plates on automobiles registered in Pennsylvania also have the state’s official website’s URL (www.pa.gov) on it. It is the first state of the 50 states to do so.

24. Pennsylvania has more than 200 covered bridges, the most that any state has in the country. Pennsylvania has 140 miles of waterfront along Lake Erie and the Delaware River. [25]

25. Mount Davis (3,213 ft or 979 m) is the highest point in Pennsylvania.[15]

26. In Pennsylvania, Beef is the third most produced food by value.[10]

27. According to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, PA Office, between 2011 and 2012, there were 63,200 farms in Pennsylvania covering an area of 7,750,000 acres.

28. The state also has the oldest gas station in America. It is situated in Altoona and is operational since 1909.[8]

29. Developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, on February 1954, children of Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received the first injections of the new polio vaccine.[11]

30. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA, is home to the first complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found.[12]

31. Did you know that Pittsburg is famous for manufacturing steel and its NFL team is the Pittsburg Steelers?

32. Pittsburg, the second most populous city in PA, has more bridges than Venice. It is also known as “the City of Bridges.” The city has more than 440 bridges.

33. Pittsburgh is named after William Pitt.

34. Located in Pittsburg, PA, Bicycle Heaven is the largest transportation museum in the world dedicated to bicycles. The founder of the museum Craig Morrow, is however, not an avid rider but an avid collector. It is an interesting fact that some bikes in his collection are worth more than $50,000. The museum is open to the public seven days a week, at no charge.

35. Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, co-founded his first steel company near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He sold his company for $480 million and later gave away more than $350 million in philanthropy.[30]

36. Philadelphia Stock Exchange, now owned by Nasdaq Inc. is the oldest stock exchange in the United States. The exchange was originally named as the Board of Brokers of Philadelphia.

37. Philadelphia, the state’s largest city is known as “the city of Brotherly Love” because of the religious tolerance of William Penn, the state’s founder.[13]

38. Pennsylvania was nicknamed “The Keystone State” because of its geographical location among the thirteen original colonies. A keystone is a stone on which the associated stones depend for support. Because of the state’s central location along the arch of the original thirteen colonies, the state is nicknamed the keystone state.

39. Did you know that Pennsylvania produces more mushroom than any other state in the U.S.? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), nearly two-thirds of the white button mushrooms consumed in the United States comes from Pennsylvania.[27]

40. President Lincoln delivered his famous speech, “The Gettysburg Address”, in Gettysburg, PA.[13]

41. The president’s house, home to Presidents George Washington and John Adams, in the city of Philadelphia, served as America’s first executive mansion.

42. The first transplant of human brain cells – called neurons – was done on 23 June, 1998 on a 62 years old stroke patient at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The patient suffered paralysis of her right arm and leg. She also lost most of her speech. The researchers hoped that the transplanted neurons will grow and replace the damaged neurons in the woman’s brain.[17]

43. The world’s largest unboxing happened in Pennsylvania when a 3 year old kid was invited by Volvo Trucks to unbox their new model Volvo VNL.[18]

44. The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the first federal building erected under the Constitution. Philadelphia was selected for the site because, when construction began in 1792, it was the nation’s capital.[19]

45. The Philadelphia Mint is the oldest coin producer in the U.S. The life expectancy of a circulating coin is 30 years, while paper money usually only lasts for 18 months. In 2018, production facilities in Philadelphia and Denver shipped over 13.1 billion coins to Federal Reserve Banks.[22,23]

46. Pennsylvania has the highest concentration of Amish (known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology) in the U.S.[20]

47. Caused by a series of system malfunctions and human errors, the worst nuclear accident in United States history occurred on March 28, 1979, on Three Mile Island near Harrisburg. Fortunately, the health effects of the Three Mile Island accident are widely, but not universally, agreed to be very low level.[21]

48. Founded in 1751 by Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Hospital is one of the nation’s oldest public hospitals. The hospital is also home to America’s first surgical amphitheater and its first medical library.

49. If you are looking for some fun and magic, visit the Ringing Rock Park in Bucks County. Here you can make the rocks ring by striking them with a hammer.[31]

Facts about Philadelphia

50. Philadelphia is the sixth most populous city in the U.S.

51. Philadelphia is home to five Fortune 1000 companies.

52. Established in 1937, Philadelphia Housing Authority is the largest landlord in Philadelphia. It is also the nation’s fourth-largest housing authority.

53. The Comcast Technology Center is the tallest building in Philadelphia and the tenth-tallest in the United States. It was opened to the public in October 2018.

54. The first terraced row houses in the United States were developed in Philadelphia. The oldest row in America, named after its designer Thomas Carstair, can still be found on Sansom Street. Row houses became a popular choice among home buyers at the time. In the early days, after this concept caught up with the general public, regardless of where the row houses were built, they were called “Philadelphia Row Houses.” If you are someone who lives in a row house, now you know the origin of the concept!

55. Philadelphia is named America’s First World Heritage City.

56. If you are a bicycle enthusiast, you would be glad to know that Philadelphia has 426 miles of bicycle lanes, the most per square mile of any U.S. city. Using bicycles for day to day commute or other purposes keeps you and the environment healthy. Scores of studies have pointed out the benefits of using bicycles including for cardiovascular health, bone strength, stress management and improved joint mobility etc.

57. If you are in Philadelphia, you are within two-hour flight time from 60% of the population of the United States.

58. Did you know that the first organized protest against slavery in the Americas was written in 1688 by four Pennsylvania Quakers from Germantown Meeting? The document argued against such inhuman treatment and stressed upon the importance of treating all men alike irrespective of the color of their skin or religion.

59. Philadelphia was one of the first cities to guarantee religious freedom to all its immigrants.

60. First held in 1920, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving day Parade is the oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade in America.

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Sriram Nadarajan

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    Sriram NadarajanWritten by Sriram Nadarajan

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