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Capital Harrisburg
Nickname The Keystone State
Official Language None
Governor Tom Wolf, D
Senator Bob Casey, Jr., D
(202) 224-6324
Senator Pat Toomey, R
(202) 224-4254
Ratification of Constitution/or statehood December 12, 1787 (2nd)
Flag of Pennsylvania Motto: "Virtue, Liberty, and Independence"

Pennsylvania, which means "Penn's woods" or "Penn's land," was one of the original thirteen colonies in the United States. Its capital is Harrisburg and it borders Ohio, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and West Virginia. For two decades Pennsylvania repeatedly voted for the Democrat candidate for president, but in 2016 Republican Donald Trump carried the state by 44,000 votes with his message of "Make America Great Again" along with his criticism of free trade and illegal immigration.

Pennsylvania will be a key swing state for the 2020 presidential election, such that it will be difficult for a candidate to win the race without winning Pennsylvania. As early as April 29, 2017, Donald Trump held a rally there in Harrisburg, and is repeatedly returning to the state until the election. Democrats switched to support Joe Biden as their presidential nomination in 2020 in part because of his popularity in Pennsylvania, where he was born and lived as a child until his family moved to neighboring Delaware.

The state Constitution of Pennsylvania, like all of the other 50 states, acknowledges God or our Creator or the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. It says:

WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.


When Europeans settlers arrived in the early 17th century the area was inhabited by about 15,000 Indians; they belonged to three main tribal groups, the Delaware, Susquehanna, and Shawnee. The English, Dutch, and Swedes all sought to occupy the land, but the English won the wars and took control. Dutch trading posts were established first; in 1637 Swedes built Fort Christina, and in 1643, began the first permanent settlement, located at the mouth of the Schuylkill River. The Dutch seized New Sweden in 1655, only to lose it to the English in 1664. King Charles II gave it to William Penn to pay off debts; the Penn family were the proprietors (owners) until 1776, when they were overthrown by the patriots as part of the American Revolution.

Religious tolerance

The colony was founded and owned by William Penn, an English Quaker who wanted a place where Quakers and other denominations could worship freely without persecution. The first Colonial Legislative Act, the Great Law of Pennsylvania, December 7, 1682, mandated:
"That no person ... who shall confess and acknowledge one Almighty God to be the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World ... shall in any case be molested or prejudiced for his, or her Conscientious persuasion or practice." [1]

Benjamin Franklin helped write Pennsylvania's 1776 Constitution. In Frame of Government, Chapter 2, Section 10, it states: "Each member of the legislature, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration: 'I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and Punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.'"

18th century

Quakers came to the Philadelphia area, where many became successful merchants, handling the long-distance trade to London and other parts of the British Empire. Pennsylvania attracted large numbers of Germans, including Lutherans and many smaller sects. They were farmers in the southeast. Scots-Irish (mostly Presbyterians) settled the frontier regions. Pennsylvania was the third largest colony by 1775, with 275,000 people (including a few thousand black slaves who worked mostly as house servants).


Philadelphia grew quickly into the largest city in colonial America and with 35,000 people in 1776 was the second largest city in the British Empire. The city's economy was based on growing agricultural wealth from prosperous inland farms which sent their surplus grains, cattle and horses for export. Entrepreneurs set up prosperous shipbuilding works on the Delaware River, and opened an iron industry. The Quaker merchants favored education and civic culture, creating a rich cultural and intellectual life that gave Philadelphia the nickname, "the Athens of America."

The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1783, with an interruption when the British occupied the city in 1777 and the government moved to Lancaster and York. The Declaration of Independence was signed there in 1776, the Liberty Bell is there, and the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge outside Philadelphia, where they suffered severe hardships for want of supplies.

Early national period

The American Constitution was written in Philadelphia in 1787. Pennsylvania was the 2nd State to join the Union on December 12, 1787 and the city was the national capital from 1790 to 1800. In 1790 the state adopted a more conservative state constitution; state capital was relocated in 1800 to Lancaster, and then to Harrisburg in 1812.

The population grew with high birth rates, and low death rates, but little immigration. Scotch Irish filled out the frontier. A strong sense of commitment to Jeffersonian Democracy and Jacksonian Democracy gave the Jeffersonian Republicans and (after 1830) the Democratsa strong position. The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 saw western farmers angrily protest the federal tax on their most portable product. President Washington personally led an army against it, and the rebels immediately gave in. A new and more democratic state constitution was adopted in 1838.

Civil War Era

The antislavery movement flourished after Quaker originated the anti-slavery cause and freed their own slaves.

The need for Philadelphia to maintain access to the expanding interior and the West, both as markets and as sources of materials, such as coal and iron, to be sold and manufactured, led to aggressive state programs to improve the transportation system. The Philadelphia-Lancaster Turnpike, first in the nation, was completed in 1794; the state built hundreds of miles of canals; mules pulled boats loaded with commerce and passengers. The canal system was linked by the Allegheny Portage Railroad over the Allegheny mountains in 1835. Private enterprise built railroads that opened up the anthracitge coal region, which became the premier energy source for America by 1850. Philadelphia became an industrial city, famous for textiles, iron and steel, and railroad equipment along with commerce and shipbuilding. The world's first major oil wells were drilled near Titusville in 1859 and the northwestern part of the state became the center for Standard Oil and other companies.

Pennsylvania's only president, James Buchanan, proved a failure in allowing seven southern states to break away under his watch. During the war Gettysburg was the scene of the war's most decisive battle, July 1–3, 1863—and Pennsylvania furnished men and leaders, including generals George B. McClellan, Winfield S. Hancock, and George Meade and Adm. David D. Porter, for the Union army and navy. Philadelphia banker, Jay Cooke was the leading financier of the Civil War; he invented a sytstem of savings bonds that allowed ordinary people to help finance the war. Philadelphia continued as a financial leader in the nation until after 1870, when it was far overshadowed by New York.


Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania is a purple state, it voted Democrat in presidential elections since 1992. It swung to red in 2016 when Donald Trump won. The Pennsylvania State Senate consists of 30 Republicans and 20 Democrats. The State House has 112 Republicans and 90 Democrats. Republicans also have a 12-7 edge in Pennsylvania's federal House delegation.

Elected Officials



Major cities


Pennsylvania is known as the "Keystone State".

Pennsylvania is the birthplace and home of President James Buchanan.

Pennsylvania was the only one of the 13 original colonies to be completely landlocked—it did not border an ocean.

The ruffled grouse is the state bird of Pennsylvania.

The white-tailed deer is the state animal of Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania is home to the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates, and the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles. Additionally, Pennsylvania State University is a traditional college football powerhouse, and Villanova University and the University of Pittsburgh have had great success in college basketball as of late.


Pennsylvania was named by the king after William Penn's father (Penn himself did not want the name used.)[2] The name means "Penn's woods".

Further reading

  • Miller, Randall M. and William A. Pencak, eds. Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth (2002), detailed scholarly history
  • Beers, Paul B. Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday (1980), government textbook
  • Klein, Philip S and Ari Hoogenboom. A History of Pennsylvania (1973), solid college textbook
  • Weigley, Russell. Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (1982)
  • WPA Federal Writers' Project. Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State, 1940.

See also


  2. He wrote, "This day, my country was confirmed to me under the great seal of England, with privileges, by the name of Pennsylvania, a name the King would give it in honor of my father. I chose New Wales, being as this, a pretty, hilly country, but Penn being Welsh for head as in Penmanmoire, in Wales, and Penrith, in Cumberland, and Penn, in Buckinghamshire . . . called this Pennsylvania, which is the high or head woodlands; for I proposed, when the secretary, a Welshman, refused to have it called New Wales, Sylvania and they added Penn to it, and though I opposed it and went to the King to have it struck out and altered he said it was past . . nor could twenty guineas move the under-secretary to vary the name" See source