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What is Pennsylvania most famous for?

The land of Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn, son of Admiral William Penn, who had been given the charter by King Charles II in 1681 to pay a £16,000 debt. The land was named by the king in honor of the elder Penn – it meant “Penn’s Woodlands.”

Pennsylvania has been one of the nation’s most important industrial centers for coal, steel, and railroads, especially before War World II. The state is also famous for its leading mushroom production, which reaches 425 million pounds annually with a value of more than $330 million.

Cheese Steaks, Amish culture, and steel are a few things we instantly correlate with Pennsylvania, but what is Pennsylvania famous for besides these?

Located in the Mid-Atlantic region, Pennsylvania is a landlocked state that shares borders with Delaware (southeast), West Virginia (southwest), Maryland (south), Ohio (west), New York (north), New Jersey (east), and Canada (North).

Pennsylvania is one of the most industrialized states in America and home to a few fortune 500 companies. It is one of the most important industrial centers for coal, steel, and railroads. Nicknamed the keystone state, Pennsylvania played a crucial role in America’s first years, as we will explain below.

1. Original colony

Before we talk about modern-day Pennsylvania, let’s start at the beginning. Pennsylvania was founded in 1681 as one of the 13 original British colonies. 

The land was given to William Penn by Charles II of England and the Province of Pennsylvania was known as one of the Middle Colonies. After the Continental Congress, it was the second state to ratify the Constitution, just five days after Delaware.   

2. William Penn

Pennsylvania is known as “The Keystone State,” but the name literally translates from Latin to “Penn’s Woods.” The English writer William Penn named it after his father Admiral William Penn. 

The younger William Penn established government in Pennsylvania and was an early supporter of unification. He was a devout Quaker who believed in peace, especially with the local Native tribes. 

3. Native tribes

Pennsylvania went through different periods of colonization by the Dutch, the English, and the Swedish. But before those settlers arrived, the land was populated by several different Native tribes.

The Algonquin Lenape, the Iroquoian Susquehannock, and Petun all inhabited the land that we now call Pennsylvania. 

4. Philadelphia

Pennsylvania’s most populated and most well-known city, Philadelphia, deserves its own list of things to be famous for. This major metropolis is a must-visit for local and international visitors alike. 

From its food to its history to its sports teams, Philly has something for everyone. Known as “The City of Brotherly Love” not just for its welcoming atmosphere, but for the Greek origins of its name. Philadelphia comes from the Greek “philos” meaning “love” and “adelphos” meaning “brother.”

5. Independence Hall

Of all the buildings in Philadelphia, Independence Hall is the most iconic. This famous civic building is where the Founding Fathers debated and adopted both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Today, the National Park Service is in charge of preserving and maintaining this important piece of history. Visitors can still step inside and tour the hall, imagining what it would have been like to shape the country we know today. 

6. Gettysburg Battle

While much of the state’s history is concentrated in Philadelphia, there are other notable historical places around the state. One of the most famous would have to be Gettysburg.

In 1863, this was the site of a pivotal Civil War battle. It was known for being especially deadly, but it also marked an important turning point for the Union army. The victory from Union Major General George Meade halted Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s march north. 

7. The Mason-Dixon line

This line, originally surveyed in the 18th century, marks the southern border of Pennsylvania and the northern border of Maryland. It became a very important demarcation line during the Civil War when the boundaries of free and slave territory were being debated.

In modern times, the Mason-Dixon line is generally known as the line that separates the Northeast and the South regions of the East Coast. 

8. Flight 93 National Memorial

Pennsylvania holds a special place in early American history, but it’s also the site of more recent historical events as well. One notable event is the hijacking and subsequent crash of Flight 93 during the September 11th attacks.

Of the four planes that were hijacked, Flight 93 is the only one that did not reach its intended target, thanks to the bravery of the crew and passengers on board. The flight crashed in Somerset County, where there is now a memorial that pays tribute to their sacrifice. 

9. Pittsburgh

A list about Pennsylvania would not be complete without a mention of its gem of the west: Pittsburgh. This second largest city is known for its steel production and hundreds of bridges.

Beyond its industrial and manufacturing background, Pittsburgh is home to numerous museums and cultural centers, including the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts.

10. Coal

Besides steel, Pennsylvania is also known for its coal production. Coal mining has been a popular industry in the state for over 200 years.

Pennsylvania is home to the largest known deposit of anthracite coal, which is known as hard coal. The state is also rich in bituminous coal, which is mainly mined in the southwest region of the state. 

11. Centralia mine fire

While coal mining is an important business and source of energy, the mining process in Pennsylvania has led to one unusual occurrence. Underneath the town of Centralia, there’s a coal fire that’s been burning since 1962.

The origins of the fire are still up for debate, but scientists estimate that the fire could continue burning for over 250 years. The site was once a tourist attraction but has since been blocked off for safety reasons. 

12. Little League World Series

While the Major League Baseball World Series changes location every year, the Little League World Series is always held in Pennsylvania. Every August, teams of 10- to 12-year-olds flock to Williamsport for their chance at the title. 

The tournament started with just American teams, but has since branched out to include international teams as well. Teams must qualify within their own regions first before traveling to the championship.

13. Appalachian mountains

Pennsylvania is famous for having surprisingly diverse geography. Running through the center of the state is the impressive Appalachian mountain range, an East Coast range that stretches for 1,500 miles.

The popular Appalachian Trail follows the mountain range and is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The section that runs through Pennsylvania is known as “Rocksylvania” due to its famously rocky terrain. 

14. Pocono Mountains

While slightly less famous, the Pocono Mountains are no less beautiful. This Pennsylvania mountain range is known for being a popular outdoor recreation area complete with relaxing resorts and plenty of activities.

Whether you prefer skiing in the winter or camping in the summer, the Poconos have a lot to offer. Casinos and racetracks are also available for those looking for more of a thrill.

15. Rivers

In addition to the mountains, Pennsylvania also offers stunning river views. There are beautiful waterways all across the state that range from tiny forest creeks to mighty flowing rivers. 

Whether you’re canoeing on Delaware, fishing on the Susquehanna, or hiking along Pine Creek, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy on Pennsylvania rivers.

16. Bad roads

Unfortunately, the unique geography of Pennsylvania does have its downsides. The many peaks and valleys can lead to water collection, which in turn does damage to the local roadways.

Potholes are all too common on streets all around Pennsylvania, so make sure you watch where you’re going when driving around the state. 

17. Pretzels

As you hike around Pennsylvania, you’ll need some good trail snacks. There’s one in particular that is deeply Pennsylvanian: the pretzel.

The state is home to 45 different pretzel companies. Whether you prefer the crunchy variety from Snyder’s of Hanover or the soft kind from Philly Pretzel Factory, this is the place for all kinds of pretzel lovers.

18. Cheesesteaks

Another savory dish that is near and dear to the hearts of Pennsylvanians is the cheesesteak. The popular sandwich has its origins in Philadelphia but can be enjoyed all over the state.

The classic cheesesteak consists of browned, thinly-sliced beef and melted cheese on a hoagie roll. The type of cheese varies based on restaurant and personal preference, as do the potential toppings.

But whether you prefer Cheez Whiz and onions or provolone and ketchup, the cheesesteak is sure to be a satisfying meal. 

19. Hershey’s

Where there’s salty, there’s always sweet. In addition to pretzels and cheesesteaks, Pennsylvania is known for its chocolate.

Hershey’s is king in these parts since the popular American chocolate brand was started in this very state. The brand has become so popular that Hershey, Pennsylvania is known as the Chocolate Capital of the U.S. 

Beyond the chocolate, Hershey’s is famous in Pennsylvania because of the popular theme park Hersheypark. Opened in 1906, the park welcomes millions of thrill-seekers every year.

20. The Amish

Many different groups of settlers have come to Pennsylvania over the years. One notable group is the Amish, a specific subgroup of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Pennsylvania has the largest Amish population in the country, with about 80,000 people. 

The Amish are well known because of their unique style and way of life. While the exact practices and beliefs vary by community, many choose not to use technology or electricity. They can often be seen wearing plain, modest clothing and traveling by horse and buggy.

Pennsylvania is a unique state with lots to offer. Whether you come for the history, the geography, or the cuisine, you’ll find something exciting to explore. What’s your favorite part about Pennsylvania? Share with us in the comments.

23. Heinz

Founded in 1869 by Henry John Heinz in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, Heinz manufactures thousands of food products on six continents and sells them in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Yet, the most famous and possibly the most important product is still Ketchup (originally catsup).

The Son of a German immigrant, Henry John Heinz, is regarded as the inventor of Ketchup by adapting the recipe of the Chinese soup called Cat Sup: a thick sauce made from tomatoes, starch, and special seasoning. Heinz turned out to be a marketing genius, and his company grew exponentially. The famous 57 varieties slogan was invented by him after seeing a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes. Even though the company had more than 60 products, the 57 number looked and sounded good, so he chose it. And, it worked… Heinz still uses this slogan.

Heinz is one of the most famous and cherished brands in America. It was a pioneer in solving problems like bacterial contamination, it worked with the Food Administration during WWI, it produced cheap and ready-to-serve soups and baby food throughout the great depression, and it aided in offsetting food shortages during WWII.

Heinz is no longer a family company (since 1969), it was bought by Berkshire Hathaway in 2013 and merged with Kraft in 2015. The new Kraft Heinz company is co-headquartered in Pennsylvania and Illinois. Kraft Heinz is the 3rd biggest food and beverages company in the USA and the 114th company in the world according to Fortune 500 of 2018.

22. Quakers

Quaker, or the Religious Society of Friends, is a Christian religious movement that started in the 17th century in England and spread to the rest of the world. Quakerism had a huge impulse in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island due to their more liberal religious policy.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania was a Quaker, and he guaranteed his settlers freedom of religion, making Pennsylvania a haven for persecuted Quakers everywhere. Despite being very few in numbers, the Quakers became influential in Pennsylvania and, consequently, in the USA.

Some scholars even argue that many of the ideas that later became a cornerstone of the USA were firstly introduced by Quakers in Pennsylvania. The Quakers helped promote things like democracy, the bill of rights, trial by jury, equal rights for men and women, abolition of slavery, and public education. They were also entrepreneurs and played a central role in advancing the Industrial Revolution in England and in Pennsylvania.

23. Pennsylvania Dutch

Another group of people that Pennsylvania is known for is the Pennsylvania Dutch. They are a cultural group formed by 18th and 19th-century immigrants that came primarily from German-speaking regions of Europe, most of them from what is now Germany but also from Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands.

We need to clarify the word “dutch” in this context doesn’t mean from the Netherlands. It’s a corrupted version of Deitsch. In their own language, they called themselves the “Pennsylvania Deitsch”, which translates to English as the “Pennsylvania German”.

The Pennsylvania Deitsch (or Dutch, or German) had several different origins, spoke different german dialects, and had very diverse religions. From their interaction, a new dialect emerged, which is known as Pennsylvania German, which still exists today. It is mostly spoken by the Amish people, as the other Pennsylvania Dutch today speak English, though some still speak the Pennsylvania Dutch language among themselves.

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