To a lot of people, Pennsylvania is our most historic state. It is the birthplace of U.S. Independence and also of our Constitution. Pennsylvania claims more historic firsts and events than any other U.S. state, and is often called ‘The Birthplace of the Nation’.
All of America’s hard coal is mined in the state of Pennsylvania, and the city of Pittsburgh is renowned for producing steel and pig iron. Pennsylvania was originally a refuge for Quakers as they were persecuted, but the state is as well home to the Mennonites and the Amish, religious groups that are often characterized by their simple lifestyle and distinctive way of dressing.
Many of these religious groups speak a specific variation of German that’s called ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’.
Quick Facts about Pennsylvania
– The state was the first to have an art museum (Philadelphia Academy of Arts).
– First museum on natural history.
– First hospital in the U.S. (Pennsylvania Hospital).
– First U.S. scientific society (Franklin Institute, enabled by Benjamin Franklin).
– First American circulating library.
– First U.S. medical college (founded by John Morgan in 1765).
– First American chamber of commerce.
– Greatest American anthracite reserves.
– First state in magnetite ore.
– First steamboat run in America.
– First rail-based steam locomotive in America.
– First computer was built at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s.
Pennsylvania brief history
In 1608, the area that we now call Virginia was first visited by Europeans (Captain John Smith). Smith’s impressive 1608 journals offer compelling eyewitness views of the Chesapeake Bay, and Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage resulted in Dutch claims to the area.
In the year 1643, Johan Printz set up the first permanent settlement of Swedish Europeans on Tinicum Island, but in 1655, the Dutch conquered the Swedish settlement, followed by a British takeover in 1664.
In 1682, William Penn first came to the region and he established the Province of Pennsylvania, a British North American colony which later became the state of Pennsylvania.
Penn’s Great Law was one of the first official documents to safeguard liberty, life, and property by jury trial (1682).
The Charter of Privileges (1701) included the majority of the principles that are used for present-day constitutions.
In 1754, George Washington won the Battle of Laurel Mountain, the first battle of the French & Indian War, in what now is Fayette County.
After Edward Braddock, a British General who had come to Virginia to deal with the French in North America, suffered a major defeat on July 9th, 1755, much of Pennsylvania came under French rule, but in 1763, the French relinquished their claims after widespread losses.
Upon increased tensions related to the Revolutionary cause, James Smith captured Fort Bedford in 1769. This was the first stronghold to fall into the hands of the American rebels. In 1774, the first Continental Congress congregated in Philadelphia, and that marked the city as a national capital.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 in Philadelphia formally started the Process of Revolution. In 1777 (on September 26th), Philadelphia had fallen to Lord William Howe, and by early 1778, all Valley Forge hardships were left behind.
Pennsylvania had contributed to the Revolution in every possible way. The state provided funds, men, and ordnance, and even created a state-organized and state-financed Navy in 1775.
In 1783, the first westward wagon trip was organized and this expedition paved the way for the impressive exodus of settlers to the western portions of Pennsylvania. When the Articles of Confederation were failing, delegates from all around came to Philadelphia in 1787 (May – September) to write a brand new Constitution.
Partly due to the skill and will of Benjamin Franklin, they stuck together and later formed the new nation. In 1787, on December 12th, Pennsylvania became the second state of the union.
During the 1830s through the 1850s, Pennsylvania was leading the nation in culture and science. Pennsylvania gave its vote to Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 elections and played a crucial role in the Underground Railroad.
Pennsylvania was actually the single Northern state where a major battle was fought during the Civil War, and the Union’s successes at the 3-day lasting Battle of Gettysburg marked (1863) marked the war’s turning point.
Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exposition was celebrating the Declaration of Independence’s 100th birthday, and the flood at Johnstown (May 1889) cost over 2,200 people their lives and was one of the worst disasters ever to hit the nation.
During World War I, over 660,000 Pennsylvanian residents served in the regions affected by the war, and a record 1.2 million Pennsylvanians served in World War II, and only New York State sent more residents to that war.
In the year 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused the state’s worst flood damage ever to be recorded in Pennsylvania’s history. 1991 was the year when Harris Wofford was the first Pennsylvanian Democrat to be elected to the U.S. Senate since 1962.
Author and journalist Richard Harding Davis wrote:
… Nowhere in our great country, from sea to sea, has nature comforted us with such assurance of plenty, such rich & tranquil beauty as in these unsung and unpainted hills of beautiful Pennsylvania…