39 Important Facts About Pennsylvania

Last updated on May 8th, 2019

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 (6) bordering states are New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey. See the complete list of the 50 states and their borders here. Pennsylvania (nicknamed: the Keystone State) has 67 counties. The state’s capital is Harrisburg. With these facts about Pennsylvania, let us learn more about its history, economy, geography, people and more.

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]

The Flag of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania flag. Pennsylvania fact file

3. 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.

4. 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.[1,5]

5. Pennsylvania is the second state, after Delaware, to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America.[2]

Pennsylvania with bordering states on the U.S. map
Pennsylvania (in red) on the map with its bordering states.

6. 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]

7. During the American Revolution, the Liberty Bell was moved from Philadelphia to Allentown. It was returned after the British evacuated Philadelphia.

8. 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]

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

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

Pennsylvania on the map

11. 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]

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

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

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

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

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

17. In 1883, the City Hotel in Pennsylvania was the first building to be lit with Thomas Edison’s three-wire system.[6]

18. 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]

19. 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.[16]

License plate from Pennsylvania
Vehicle license plate from Pennsylvania. Image via – Flickr

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

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

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

23. 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.[9]

24. Pennsylvania has more than 200 covered bridges, the most that any state has in the country.[25]

25. 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]

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

27. 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]

The State Quarter

State Quarter Pennsylvania

28. 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]

29. Pennsylvania was nicknamed “The Keystone State” because of its geographical location among the thirteen original colonies.[13]

30. 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]

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

32. 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]

33. 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]

34. 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]

35. 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]

36. 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]

37. 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]

38. 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.[28,29]

39. 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]

Pennsylvania State – Quick facts, State symbols

State AbbreviationPA
NoteClick on the previous/next link below to see more table entries.
State CapitalHarrisburg
State SizeTotal (Land + Water): 46,055 sq miles; Land Only: 44,817 sq miles
(Estimate July 1, 2018 from United States Census Bureau)
StatehoodDecember 12, 1787
State rank by population5th
State rank by date of formation2nd
State rank by area33rd
Number of Counties67
Complete list of 50 states and number of counties in each
Bordering StatesDelaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia
Official LanguageNone
Highest PointMount Davis
3,213 ft (979 m)
Lowest pointDelaware River at Delaware border
Sea level
Mean elevation1,100 feet above sea level
Length 280 miles (455 km)
Width160 miles (255 km)
GovernorTom Wolf (D)
Lieutenant GovernorJohn Fetterman (D)
Electoral Votes20
State MottoVirtue, Liberty, and Independence
State NicknameKeystone State
% Water2.7
Nobel Prize WinnersBarry Sharpless (Chemistry, 2001)
Gary Becker (Economic Sciences, 1992)
Joseph H. Taylor Jr. (Physics, 1993)
Clifford G. Shull (Physics, 1994)
Edward B. Lewis (Physiology or Medicine, 1995)
William D. Phillips (Physics, 1997)
Keffer Hartline (Physiology or Medicine, 1967)
Christian Anfinsen (Chemistry, 1972)
Howard M. Temin (Physiology or Medicine, 1975)
William A. Fowler (Physics, 1983)
Famous PeopleJason Taylor (Pro Football Player)
Ken Griffey Jr. (Baseball Player)
Zack Clayton (Basketball Player)
Hobey Baker (Hockey Player)
Will Smith (Actor)
Taylor Swift (Singer)
U.S. President Born in Pennsylvania1. James Buchanan.
State FlagFlag of Pennsylvania

Flag of Pennsylvania.svg

State sealSeal of Pennsylvania

Seal of Pennsylvania.svg

State Coat of armsCoat of Arms of Pennsylvania

Coat of arms of Pennsylvania.svg

State quarter

1999 PA Proof.png

State AnimalWhite-tailed deer

White-tailed deer.jpg

PlantPenngift Crownvetch
FossilPhacops rana

Field Museum - trilobite - Phacops rana milleri - Sylvania, Ohio.jpg
DogGreat Dane

Dogge Odin.jpg

State InsectPennsylvania firefly

Photuris pennsylvanicus 1665.jpg

State FishBrook trout

Salvelinus fontinalis GLERL.jpg

State FlowerMountain laurel

Kalmia Latifolia.jpg

State Game BirdRuffed grouse

Bonasa umbellus 1905.jpg

State AircraftPiper J-3 Cub

Piper J-3 Cub

Electric locomotiveGG1 4859

PRR 4859 in Harrisburg.jpg

State TreeHemlock

Tsuga canadensis morton.jpg

ShipUS Brig Niagara

Brig Niagara full sail.jpg

Longitude74° 41′ to 80° 31′ W
Latitude39° 43′ to 42° 16′ N
Time ZoneEastern Time Zone
Area Codes215, 267, 272, 412, 445, 484, 570, 582, 610, 717, 724, 814, 835, 878
Table Last UpateMay 14, 2019