The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a state located in the Middle Atlantic region of the United States of America. As of 2005 the state has the 17th largest economy in the world.
One of Pennsylvania’s nicknames is the Quaker State; in colonial times, it was known officially as the Quaker Province, in recognition of Quaker William Penn’s First Frame of Government constitution for Pennsylvania that guaranteed liberty of conscience.
Penn knew of the hostility Quakers faced when they opposed rituals, oaths, violence, and what they viewed as ostentatious frippery.
Pennsylvania has also been known as the Keystone State since 1802, based in part upon its central location among the original Thirteen Colonies forming the United States.
It was also a keystone state economically, having both the industry common to the North, making such wares as Conestoga wagons and rifles, and the agriculture common to the South, producing feed, fiber, food, and tobacco.
Pennsylvania has 51 miles (82 km) of coastline along Lake Erie and 57 miles (92 km) of shoreline along the Delaware Estuary.
Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city and is home to a major seaport and shipyards on the Delaware River.
Pennsylvania is 170 miles (274 km) north to south and 283 miles (455 km) east to west. Of a total 46,055 square miles (119,282 km²), 44,817 square miles (116,075 km²) are land, 490 square miles (1,269 km²) are inland waters and 749 square miles (1,940 km²) are waters in Lake Erie.
It is the 33rd largest state in the United States. The highest point of 3,213 feet (979 m) above sea level is at Mount Davis, which was named for its owner, John Davis, a schoolteacher who fought for the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The lowest point is at sea level on the Delaware River, and the approximate mean elevation is 1,100 feet (335 m). Pennsylvania is in the Eastern time zone.
The original southern boundary of Pennsylvania was supposed to be at 40° North latitude, but as a result of a bad faith compromise by Lord Baltimore during Cresap’s War, the king’s courts moved the boundary 20 miles (32 km) south to 39° 43′ N.
The city of Philadelphia, at 40°0′N 75°8′W, would have been split in half by the original boundary. While he was a captive, Cresap, a Marylander, was paraded through Philadelphia. He taunted the officers by announcing that Philadelphia was one of the prettiest towns in Maryland.
Pennsylvania’s diverse geography also produces a variety of climates. Straddling two major zones, the southeastern corner of the state posses the warmest climate.
Greater Philadelphia lies at the southernmost tip of the Humid continental climate zone, with some characteristics of the Humid subtropical climate that lies in Delaware and Maryland to the south.
Moving toward the mountainous interior of the state, the climate becomes markedly colder, number of cloudy days increases, and winter snowfall amounts are greater.
Western areas of the state, particular cities near Lake Erie can receive over 100 inches (250 cm) of snowfall annually, and the entire state receives plentiful rainfall throughout the year.
Before the Commonwealth was settled, the area was home to the Delaware (also known as Lenni Lenape), Susquehannock, Iroquois, Eries, Shawnee, and other Native American tribes.
In 1681, Charles II granted a land charter to William Penn, to repay a debt of £20,000 ($20,000,000 in today’s money) owed to William’s father, Admiral Penn.
This was one of the largest land grants to an individual in history. It was called Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s Woods”, in honor of Admiral Penn.
Penn established a government with two innovations that were much copied in the New World: the county commission, and freedom of religious conviction.
Writer Murray Rothbard in his four-volume history of the U.S., Conceived in Liberty, refers to the years of 1681–90 as “Pennsylvania’s Anarchist Experiment.”
Between 1730 and when it was shut down by Parliament with the Currency Act of 1764, the Pennsylvania Colony made its own paper money to account for the shortage of actual gold and silver. The paper money was called Colonial Scrip.
The Colony issued “bills of credit” which were as good as gold or silver coins because of their legal tender status. Since they were issued by the government and not a banking institution, it was an interest-free proposition, largely defraying the expense of the government and therefore taxation of the people.
It also promoted generally employment and prosperity since the Government used discretion and did not issue too much to inflate the currency. Benjamin Franklin had a hand in creating this currency, of which he said its utility was never to be disputed, and it also received the high praise of Adam Smith.
After the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, Delegate John Dickinson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote the Declaration of Rights and Grievances.
The Congress was the first meeting of the thirteen colonies, called at the request of the Massachusetts Assembly, but only nine colonies sent delegates.
Dickinson then wrote Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, To the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, which were published in the Pennsylvania Chronicle between December 2, 1767, and February 15, 1768.
When the Founding Fathers of the United States were to convene in Philadelphia in 1774, 12 colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress.
The First Continental Congress drew up and signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, but when that city was captured by the British, the Continental Congress escaped westward, meeting at the Lancaster courthouse on Saturday, September 27, 1777, and then to York. There they drew up the Articles of Confederation that formed 13 independent colonies into a new nation. Later, the Constitution was written, and Philadelphia was once again chosen to be cradle to the new American Nation.
Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 12, 1787, five days after Delaware became the first.
Dickinson College of Carlisle was the first college founded in the United States. Established in 1773, the college was ratified five days after the Treaty of Paris on September 9th, 1783. The school was founded by Benjamin Rush and named after John Dickinson, President of Pennsylvania and a signer of the Constitution.
For half a century, the Commonwealth’s legislature met at various places in the general Philadelphia area before starting to meet regularly in Independence Hall in Philadelphia for 63 years. But it needed a more central location, as for example the Paxton Boys massacres of 1763 had made them aware.
So, in 1799 the legislature moved to the Lancaster Courthouse, and finally in 1812 to Harrisburg.
The legislature met in the old Dauphin County Court House until December 1821, when the Redbrick Capitol was finished. It burned down in 1897, presumably due to a faulty flue.
The legislature met at Grace Methodist Church on State Street (still standing), until the present capitol was finished in 1907.
The new state Capitol drew rave reviews.
Its dome was inspired by the domes of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the United States Capitol. President Theodore Roosevelt called it the “the most beautiful state Capitol in the nation”, and said “It’s the handsomest building I ever saw” at the dedication.
In 1989, the New York Times praised it as “grand, even awesome at moments, but it is also a working building, accessible to citizens … a building that connects with the reality of daily life.”
Pennsylvania accounts for 9% of all wooded areas in the United States
James Buchanan, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the only bachelor President of the United States.
The Battle of Gettysburg — the major turning point of the Civil War — took place near Gettysburg.
An estimated 350,000 Pennsylvanians served in the Union Army forces along with 8,600 African American military volunteers.
Pennsylvania was also the home of the first Commercially drilled oil well. In 1859, near Titusville, Pennsylvania, Edwin L. Drake successfully drilled the well. It led to the first major oil boom in United States History.
Pennsylvania’s 2005 total gross state product (GSP) of $430.31 billion ranks the state 6th in the nation.
If Pennsylvania were an independent country, its economy would rank as the 17th largest in the world, ahead of Belgium, but behind the Netherlands.
On a per-capita basis, though, Pennsylvania’s per-capita GSP of $34,619 ranks 26th among the 50 states.
Bethlehem Steel’s closed manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
This site will become the site of a new multi-million dollar casino in 2007.
Bethlehem Steel’s closed manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This site will become the site of a new multi-million dollar casino in 2007.
Philadelphia in the southeast corner and Pittsburgh in the southwest corner are urban manufacturing centers, with the “t-shaped” remainder of the Commonwealth being much more rural; this dichotomy affects state politics as well as the state economy.
Philadelphia is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, with more located in suburbs like King of Prussia; it’s a leader in the financial and insurance industry.
Pittsburgh is home to six Fortune 500 companies, including U.S. Steel, PPG Industries, H.J. Heinz, and Alcoa.
In all, Pennsylvania is home to 49 Fortune 500 companies.