Pennsylvania - The Keystone State


Capital City:
Keystone State
Virtue, Liberty, and Independence
December 12, 1787
Origin of State's Name:
Named in honor of Admiral William Penn, father of William Penn the state's founder, and means Penn's Woods
Largest Cities:
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Allentown, Scranton
Border States:
Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia
Land Area:
44,820 sq. mi., 32rd
State Bird:
Ruffed Grouse
State Flower:
Mountain Laurel
State Tree:
Eastern Hemlock
State Song:

Although Swedes and Dutch were the first European settlers, William Penn, a Quaker, named Pennsylvania in honor of his father by combining the name Penn and the Latin term sylvania, which translates as "woodlands," to come up with "Penn's woodlands." Known as the "Keystone State," Pennsylvania is one of the original 13 colonies (it entered the Union in 1787). Today, two major cities dominate the state--Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, and a thriving metropolitan area, and Pittsburgh, a busy inland river port. The Amish, a group of people who live without the use of modern technology, live in the countryside of Pennsylvania. The capital is Harrisburg and the state bird is the ruffed grouse.

The Civil War in Pennsylvania


What was the most important battle in Pennsylvania during the Civil War?

It was the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place on July 1 through 3, 1863, in southern Pennsylvania. The battle was General Robert E. Lee's final attempt to invade the North. Even though the Union army won the battle, more than 51,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured in the bloodiest battle of the entire war.

At the dedication ceremony of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous speech, the Gettysburg Address. You may have heard the famous opening words before: "Four score and seven years ago." The Gettysburg Address is a very short speech. It is less than 300 words, and it probably seemed even shorter at the time because Lincoln delivered his address after a two-hour speech by orator Edward Everett.

At one point in the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln says: "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Lincoln is unclear when he talks about the soldiers who died during the Battle of Gettysburg. Perhaps he wanted Southerners to believe he was including the Confederate as well as the Union soldiers. By calling for a "new birth of freedom" for the nation, Lincoln may have been asking the South to rejoin the union.

Rivers of Steel


What American city do you think of when you think of steel?

If you answered Pittsburgh, you are right. As a major source of steel products and technology, Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania were once a powerful hub of the Industrial Age -- one that pushed the United States to world leadership as an industrial giant.

Pittsburgh steel was used to build some of the most important structures of the modern age: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal locks, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Oakland Bay Bridge, and the United Nations. During World War II, southwestern Pennsylvania became known as America's "Arsenal of Democracy," because its mills were working around the clock to make enough steel for America and its allies. Andrew Carnegie (see the "Amazing Americans" section of this Web site) became the richest man in the world because of his ownership of steel mills.

Today, Pittsburgh no longer dominates world steel production, but the nonprofit Rivers of Steel Corporation seeks to preserve the heritage of the area.

National Freedom Day


What holiday is celebrated on February 1?

It's National Freedom Day. The purpose of this holiday is to promote good feelings, harmony, and equal opportunity among all citizens and to remember that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom.

Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, fought to have a day when freedom for all Americans is celebrated. When Wright got his freedom, he went on to become a successful businessman and community leader in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Major Wright chose February 1 as National Freedom Day because it was the day in 1865 that President Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Do you know what the 13th Amendment did?

This amendment, an important change to our written law, outlawed slavery in the United States. Wright gathered national and local leaders together to write a bill declaring February 1 "National Freedom Day" and President Harry Truman signed the bill in 1948 making it official.

Pittston Tomato Festival


Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

More than 40,000 people come to the Pittston Tomato Festival to celebrate one of Pittston's favorite fruits. That's right, fruits! Although the tomato is not sweet, it is a fruit rather than a vegetable. That's because science calls a fruit any fleshy material covering the seeds of a plant. The tomato has seeds inside, so it is a fruit -- so are cucumbers, green peppers, and squash. We often refer to them as vegetables, though, because of the way they taste. We tend to think of fruits as sweet; it's a handy way to distinguish between the different kinds of plants that we eat.

The people of Pittston, Pennsylvania, love the tomato, whether it is a fruit or a vegetable. What's your favorite fruit?

Ligonier Highland Games


Have you ever heard of a "heavy athlete"? No, it's not an overweight ballplayer; it's someone who takes part in traditional Scottish games. The Highland Games in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, offer plenty of heavy athletes the opportunity to compete in events like tree-throwing. How would you like to throw a tree?

By the time of the Revolutionary War, it was estimated that one out of every three people living in western Pennsylvania was of Scottish ancestry. Today, the people of Ligonier celebrate their Scottish heritage by holding the Ligonier Highland Games. The most popular games are called "heavy athletics." These games are a test of strength and skill for those who compete. Ancient Scottish leaders, chieftains, originally used Highland games to select the best men to go into battle. But in Ligonier the games are just for fun!

Heavy athletes do things like throw big stones or even hammers to see who can throw the farthest. They also compete in a game called the caber toss. Caber is Gaelic (the traditional language of Scotland) for tree. The caber used in the Ligonier Highland Games is a tree trunk more than 14 feet long!


Source: Library Of Congress
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