June 12, 2012

Pennsylvania – “the Keystone State”




Just the Facts….

bird – ruffed grouse
flower – mountain laurel 
tree – eastern hemlock
capital – Harrisburg
Union – 2nd state in 1787
Population  - about 12 million


The Basics 

Pennsylvania is officially known as “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”  It’s nickname is “The Keystone State” because it was centrally located within the original 13 colonies – it provided a link between the industry in New England and the farming in the southern colonies.


Pennsylvania was named by its founder, William Penn, in honor of his father.  He intended to name it “Penn’s Woods,” but it was changed to Pennsylvania by King Charles (“sylvania” is the Latin term for woods).  King Charles gave the land to William Penn to settle a debt he owed to Penn’s father.  It was the largest land grant to an individual in American history!


Even though it is an inland state, Pennsylvania has access to two waterways leading to the ocean.  Not surprisingly, its two largest urban and manufacturing areas are close to both these waterways.  Pittsburgh is just south of a tiny portion of land along Lake Erie in the northwestern corner of the state, which provides access to all the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Philadelphia has access to the tiny portion of land along the Delaware River in the southeastern corner of the state, which leads to the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean.


The middle of Pennsylvania is mountainous and quite rural, with the Appalachian Mountains moving diagonally across it.  As a result, Pennsylvania straddles two climate zones, with the area below the Appalachian Mountains being much warmer than the area above it.


Its Claim to Fame

Pennsylvania played a very large role in the founding of our country.  The Declaration of Independence started the American colonies down the path towards independence – it was written and signed by representatives of the colonies at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  At that time, the Liberty Bell was hanging in the bell tower of Independence Hall.  It was rung frequently, calling citizens to the Hall for important information.   The most famous time was July 8, 1776, when it was used to call people to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.  After the Revolutionary War was over, delegates from each colony met in Philadelphia again to decide how our federal government should be structured.  They debated ideas and eventually wrote our Constitution.  All those meetings took place at Independence Hall.


Pennsylvania is also known as the “Quaker State.”  The Religious Society of Friends (commonly called “Quakers”) was an independent religion that was started in England.  William Penn was a Quaker and wanted to build a community based on Quaker principles and religious tolerance, where people could worship God however they wanted.  People from all over Europe came to his new community, seeking refuge from religious persecution.   For example, Pennsylvania was one of the only places in America where Catholics were allowed to practice their religion for many years.  As a result, Pennsylvania quickly became the one of the most international places in the New World, with many different religions co-existing peacefully.

What Makes it Tick 

Pennsylvania has a BIG candy and snack industry.  Lots of candy and snacks are manufactured within its borders – from from pretzels and potato chips to Peeps and Mike & Ike’s.  But, the most famous candy is made in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Can you guess?  That’s right – chocolate!   In fact, Pennsylvania has more chocolate factories than any other state.  Some factories offer tours, which allow you to watch how chocolate is made.  Hershey’s visitor center, “Chocolate World,” has lots to offer – you can even make your own candy bar!


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is historically known as “The Steel City” – for good reason.  There was a time during the early 20th century when Pittsburgh produced nearly one-half of all the steel used in America.  Three rivers come together in the heart of Pittsburgh, which gives it access to much of the interior of America.  In addition, once the Erie Canal was built, Pittsburgh also had access to the Atlantic Ocean (through the St. Lawrence Seaway).  As a result, Pittsburgh could ship its steel nearly anywhere!  And it did – Pittsburgh steel is part of many skyscrapers all throughout America.


If You Visited

If you visited Pennsylvania, you might travel to Lancaster County to tour some of the largest Amish communities in America.   The Amish are a tight knit community that take care of each other and have worked hard to preserve their heritage.  The first thing you might notice is that the Amish don’t drive cars.  They live a more simple lifestyle that has not changed much in about 300 years.  They drive horse and buggies, do not use electricity, farm only with equipment that can be pulled by a horse, and make their household items by hand.   They even speak their own language – a dialect of German that is known as “Pennsylvania Dutch.”


You might also tour the National Constitution Center, a museum devoted to the story of our Constitution and the beginnings of our great country.  It is right next to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  Afterwards, you might have a Philly cheese steak for dinner!  The Philly cheese steak is the most famous food in Pennsylvania.  It was created by a hot dog vendor in 1930 and has become Philadelphia’s favorite food for lunch on the go.  It is a roll filled with thinly sliced beef that is covered in cheese – yum!  Here is a recipe if you want to try making Philly cheese steaks at home:

6 ounces rib eye steak (freeze it a little and then slice it super thin)
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
provolone cheese slices
hoagie roll 
optional – 1/2 onion, sliced and caramelized
optional – 1/3 cup mushrooms, sautéed

Heat olive oil on medium high heat, and sauté steak until lightly browned.  Optional – add onions or mushrooms.  Arrange the steak mixture in a row and place cheese on top.  Once the cheese is melted, transfer to a hoagie and enjoy!


Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Pennsylvania? Have you visited Pennsylvania recently?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite place to go?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Pennsylvania to share? Post them to out Facebook page:


Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Pennsylvania.  Visit these websites to learn more great things about Pennsylvania:

  • www.visitpa.com/
  • http://explorepahistory.com/index.php
  • http://www.destination360.com/north-america/us/pennsylvania/when-to-go
  • http://www.padutchcountry.com/activities/amish-activities.asp
  • http://www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld/
  • http://constitutioncenter.org/