Pennsylvania – History, Facts and Quotes

Pennsylvania history shows that although Europeans first visited it in the late 1490s, Captain John Smith re-discovered the area in 1608, and various Native American tribes populated Pennsylvania long before that. Philadelphia was officially founded in 1682, quickly growing into the largest city in colonial America and serving as the capital of the United States during the 1790s. Today, Pennsylvania has a population of around thirteen million people. Learn more about Pennsylvania history below.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Pennsylvania is one of the oldest states in the United States of America and it has a long and interesting history as well as a vibrant and exciting culture that continues today. Pennsylvania, officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was one of the thirteen original colonies and played an important part in the American Revolution. Today, Pennsylvania is home to a wide variety of people, prestigious universities and schools, international companies, and successful sports franchises, all making up the fascinating and important state!

Pennsylvania Facts

According to the 2010 census, Pennsylvania has a population of nearly thirteen million, and a population density of around 284 people per square mile. Philadelphia, the capital of Pennsylvania, is the sixth largest city in the United States and has a population of approximately 1.5 million, a number that has increased by about 79,000 in the past ten years. Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and is home to many historical sites from the Colonial Era, American Revolution, and more.

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History of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania may have been first visited by Europeans in the late 1490s, but the area was definitely visited by Captain John Smith in 1608, and was certainly populated by a variety of Native American tribes. In 1681, as payment for an $80,000 debt, Charles II granted the area that is now Pennsylvania to William Penn, who originally called it New Wales. When Welsh members of Parliament objected, Charles II renamed the territory Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia was founded in 1682, and quickly grew into the largest city in colonial America. It was a logical choice for the First and Second Constitutional Congresses, and was the capital of the United States during the 1790s. Philadelphia was also the birthplace of the first university in America, the University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1749. It became the second state in 1787.

Pennsylvania was also a key site during the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most significant battles of the Civil War and a key turning point for the Union victory, as well as the battle with the most casualties in the entire Civil War. Gettysburg is now a museum and historical site that can and should be visited in Pennsylvania.

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Quotes about Pennsylvania

The state motto of Pennsylvania is “Virtue, Liberty, & Independence,” and appears on the state Coat of Arms and flag as well as on the statehood quarter. Pennsylvanians have been described as hard-working, and has long been an example of religious tolerance after the state’s founding as a Quaker center in colonial America, with colonist Gabriel Thomas describing Pennsylvania as, “…free for all Persuasions, in a Sober and Civil way; for the Church of England and the Quakers bear equal Share in the Government. They live Friendly and Well together; there is no Persecution for Religion, nor ever like to be.” Pennsylvania is also the setting for many books, films, television shows, plays, and songs.

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Pennsylvania Genealogy Sites

For those looking to research genealogy in Pennsylvania, there are a wide variety of resources available. Genealogy is very interesting in Pennsylvania because it has such a long and unique history. Many of its founding families can trace their genealogy back to pre-colonial times, and there is great interest in tracing that history. There are many resources and special projects devoted to genealogy in Pennsylvania, and many societies, libraries, and archives are open to the public wanting to research their family history.

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Museums and Historical Sites

As a state with a long history, Pennsylvania has a wealth of historical sites, resources, and museums. Many famous sites, such as the Liberty Bell, which rang in the Pennsylvania State House, and famously cracked in its first ringing, and Independence Hall, where both the Declaration and Independence and US Constitution were signed, are found in Pennsylvania, and there are several major museums in the state, containing art from ancient artifacts to modern masterpieces.

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Pennsylvania History for Kids

Pennsylvania history can also be fun for kids! Beyond learning about the history of the United States, the American Revolution, and more; kids can also learn about the way governments work, about art, other cultures and religions, and other topics of interest! Pennsylvania also has a wide variety of wildlife and several great parks and wildlife reserves for kids to learn about nature, conservation, and pre-historical archaeological finds. 

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Historical Societies

As Pennsylvania has such a long history, there are many historical societies and historical resources in the state. Historical societies are important in keeping the long history of Pennsylvania alive today. These historical societies serve an important purpose for researchers and residents alike. These societies also put on events and lectures to educate the public and keep Pennsylvania history in everyone’s thoughts.

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  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Collections
  • Chester County Historical Society: About
  • Germantown Historical Society: Museum

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Regional Pennsylvania Resources

Pennsylvania has a lot of regional resources for history buffs, researchers, and more. Although it has a long history, it is also a bustling, thriving state with a diverse and interesting population. It is closely connected to the entire Northeast, and is home to several major companies and corporations. Regional resources are important for both residents and visitors.

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