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 coal, steel, and railroad industrial centers. Nicknamed the keystone state, Pennsylvania played a crucial role in America’s first years, as we will explain below.
So, without more delays, let’s explore what is Pennsylvania famous for!
13 things Pennsylvania is famous for
Declaration of Indenpendence
The Declaration of Independence is one of the first things that come to mind when we ask what Pennsylvania is famous for. Approved by the second continental congress on the 4th of July of 1776 at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the declaration of Independence of the United States of America proclaims the separation of the signatory colonies from Britain.
On July 2, the Lee resolution for independence was approved by Congress in Philadelphia with no opposing votes. The Lee resolution determined that the Thirteen Colonies in America were “free and independent States,” separated from the British Empire, creating what became the United States of America.
On the 4th of July, the states formally announced the decision and why the thirteen states considered themselves independent and no longer under British rule. It was the first collective step into independence and the creation of the United States of America. The declaration of independence was prepared by a committee of five members: Benjamin Franklin, Livingston Robert, Sherman Roger, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Thomas Jefferson composed the original draft of the document, which Congress edited to produce the final version.
Pennsylvania is also known for being one of the original colonies and the second state to ratify the constitution, officially becoming the second state to enter the union. Besides Pennsylvania, the original thirteen colonies were Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
After receiving a land grant from Charles II, king of England, in 1681, William Penn founded the colony of Pennsylvania. The colony of one of the most important of the restoration colonies, and it was kept as a property of the Penn family until the American Revolution.
Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were the states that signed the Declaration of Independence. The lower counties of Delaware were separate colonies within the province and broke away during the Revolution, becoming the Delaware state, the first state of the union.
Located in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell is s an iconic symbol of American independence and one of the country’s most recognizable historical objects. Today located in independence National historical park, it used to be placed on the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) across the street.
Commissioned in 1752 by Lester and Pack in London, the bell has a curious reference to the bible ( (Book of Leviticus 25:10) “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof“. Another curiosity is that the Bell has a distinctive large crack, gained in the early 19th century, supposedly while ringing after the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.
It was initially used to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions and to alert people about public meetings and proclamations. No bells were ringing on the 4th of July upon the independence vote, but they rang on the 8th of July when the declaration of independence was announced and read to the public.
The Bell fell into obscurity until, in the 19th century, it was adopted by abolitionist society and earned the name for its now known, the Liberty Bell. Today, when travelers visit Philadelphia, the liberty bell is one of the places they tend to visit. It is a landmark and a symbol of American freedom.
Fought for three days, between de 1st and the 3rd of July of 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg is considered by many the turning point of the American civil war. It is also considered the battle with the largest casualties of the entire war, with Union casualties reaching 23 000. At the same time, the Confederates lost about 28 000 men, more than a third of their army.
The Union and the Confederate forces battled in and around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for three days, with the Union army getting a decisive victory over General Lee’s Northern Virginia Army. The victory of Maj. General George Meade halted the invasion of the north by the confederates, changing the course of the war.
This loss crushed the confederate momentum and prevented any possibility of European interference while simultaneously giving a significant victory to the Union, boosting their morale for future campaigns.
Today the battle site is one of the most famous landmarks in Pennsylvania. It is also a perfect destination for history buffs, families, and everyone else really. In fact, visiting Gettysburg with kids is a lovely experience, as the site is fascinating for both children and adults.
Pennsylvania has been a coal mining state since the late 1700s, and despite it still is the fourth-largest coal-producing state in America. It is also the only state producing bituminous and anthracite coal. Anthracite coal is relatively rare, heavily metamorphosed, and almost pure carbon. It burns with intense heat producing a blue flame.
Coal Industry was a driving factor for the Pennsylvania economy during the 20th century, but during the last decade, the coal economy has declined due to environmental concerns. Coal is a huge air pollutant. These obstacles have impacted mining and associated activities like coal power generation, supply chain, and the local economies of the coal regions in Pennsylvania.
Despite being associated with Pennsylvania, coal mining is concentrated in only a few northeastern counties. These counties are usually called the coal region and comprise Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, and the extreme northeast corner of Dauphin counties.
What is Pennsylvania known for making? Steel, Pennsylvania, has a large steel history. Besides the above-mentioned coal, Pennsylvania and Pittsburg, in particular, are famous for steel production. Although the steel industry is now much smaller than in the last century, it still is critical for the state’s economy. It continues to generate wealth employing a significant number o people.
At one time, Pennsylvania was home to two of the largest steel producers in the world, US Steel in Pittsburgh and Bethlehem steel in Bethlehem. Steel generated so much profit that Andrew Carnegie became the wealthiest man in the world after selling Carnegie Steel corporation to JP Morgan (which later became the US Steel Corporation).
For many years, Pennsylvania was the steel capital of the world, or at least of America. It built the Brooklyn Bridge, the empire state building, and the Chrysler building. It was used in Panama Canals, in the world-famous Chicago fair wheel, and so many lesser-known buildings and structures. Steel is so important for Pennsylvania that even NFL’s Pittsburgh franchise is called the Pittsburgh steelers!
When people asked me what Pennsylvania is famous for, my sweet tooth only had one answer: Chocolates, Hershey Chocolates!
Founded in 1894 by Milton Hershey, Hershey’s became one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world (though the company also produces cookies, cakes, milkshakes, and other products). The company was founded 14 miles east of Harrisburg in what became known as the unincorporated town of Hershey.
Hershey’s is sometimes dubbed as “chocolate town” or “the sweetest place in the world.” The city was established by Milton Hershey, who financed many of its first services, such as the School, hotel, and community center.
Hershey’s factory tours are mandatory visits for chocolate lovers. Besides the factory, Hershey’s Chocolate World has shops, restaurants, and several attractions related to Hershey’s chocolates. In the vicinity, there’s also the popular Hersheypark founded in 1906 by… you guessed it, Milton Hershey.
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 adapted the recipe of the Chinese soup called Cat Sup: a thick sauce made from tomatoes, starch, and special seasoning. Heinz was 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, 57 looked and sounded good, so he chose them. And it worked… Heinz still uses this slogan.
Heinz is one of the most famous and cherished brands in America. It pioneered problems like bacterial contamination, worked with the Food Administration during WWI, 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.
Continuing on the food topic, no article about the famous things in Pennsylvania would be complete without talking about the Philly cheesesteak. This popular sandwich originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it’s a combination of frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread.
The meat in a Cheesesteak is usually thinly sliced rib-eye or top round, while the cheese is typically provolone, Cheez Whiz, or White American cheese. The cheese mustn’t be too strong so it doesn’t overpower the flavor. The bread has to be a long, hoagie roll.
The cheesesteak sandwiches were created in the early 20th century, but the details are sometimes debated. Pat and Harry Olivieri are usually credited for the creation when they only had a hot dog stand. The sandwich’s success was immediate, and they opened a restaurant, Pat’s King of Steaks, which is still operating today.
Now that we have covered history and food, what else is Pennsylvania known for? Amish people and culture, obviously. The Amish are a very traditionalist and peculiar people that came to America in the 18th century with Swiss German and Alsatian Anabaptist origins. They migrated from Europe primarily to Pennsylvania, and that’s where they are mostly found even today.
The Amish are known for their pacifism, simple living, dressing, and reluctance to adopt modern technologies. They value family time, face-to-face interactions, and self-sufficiency. Rural life, manual labor, and humility are things that the Amish appreciate and that they interpret to be God’s word.
Pennsylvania is the US state with the most Amish people and the highest number of Amish communities. There are more than 350 000 Amish in the USA, of which about 80 000 live in Pennsylvania. The biggest community in the world is the Lancaster community, with almost 300 church districts. It is also the oldest Amish settlement that is still in existence.
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 settler’s freedom of religion, making Pennsylvania a haven for persecuted Quakers everywhere. Despite being very few in number, the Quakers became influential in Pennsylvania and, consequently, in the USA.
Some scholars even argue that Quakers in Pennsylvania first introduced many of the ideas that later became a cornerstone of the USA. 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.
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, 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.
Fun facts and Pennsylvania Records
Finally, Pennsylvania holds a few notable records and is home to some unique and fun facts that are globally known. As one of the original colonies and the second state, Pennsylvania had many firsts. Let’s explore some of them:
- Pennsylvania is the Keystone state because of its importance in forging the USA. We have talked about a few of the important historical events that happened in Pennsylvania;
- Philadelphia was the United States capital city for several years before Washington DC was established;
- It is the only state of the original colonies that don’t border the Atlantic ocean;
- The first American flag was made by Betsy Ross in Philadelphia.
- The first American stock exchange was founded in Philadelphia in 1790;
- Founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia is the first hospital;
- The USA University of Pennsylvania built the first all-purpose computer in 1946.
- The oldest continuously operating bookshop in Ameris is the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem. It opened to the public in 1745.
- The first business school in the United States was established in 1881. It’s the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.
- We have mentioned that Hershey’s is the chocolate capital of the US, but did you know that Kennett Square is the world capital of mushrooms?
- Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the US.
- Pennsylvania has eight major sports league teams, five in Philly and 3 in Pittsburgh.
* Cover photo by sepavone via Depositphotos