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Definition: Pennsylvania from Collins English Dictionary


1 a state of the northeastern US: almost wholly in the Appalachians, with the Allegheny Plateau to the west and a plain in the southeast; the second most important US state for manufacturing. Capital: Harrisburg. Pop: 12 365 455 (2003 est). Area: 116 462 sq km (44 956 sq miles) Abbreviation: Pa, Penn, Penna or with zip code PA

Summary Article: Pennsylvania
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State in northeastern USA bordered to the north by New York, with a coastal strip on Lake Erie, to the west by Ohio and the West Virginia panhandle, to the south, on the Mason–Dixon Line, by West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, and to the east by New Jersey, across the Delaware River; area 116,075 sq km/44,817 sq mi; population (2010) 12,702,379; capital Harrisburg. It is nicknamed the Keystone State due to its geographical position between the northeast and south of the USA. The Appalachian Plateau dominates over half of Pennsylvania, defined on its eastern border by the Allegheny Front, a spine of mountains running diagonally southwest–northeast across the centre of the state. The Susquehanna and the Juniata rivers cut east–southeast across the front. One of the original Thirteen Colonies, Pennsylvania remains a leading source of both agricultural produce and industrial goods. Philadelphia is the state's most populous city; other major cities include Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, and Scranton. Pennsylvania was home to several Iroquoian and Algonquian tribes, including the Delaware, Shawnee, Susquehannock, and Seneca. First explored by the English and the Dutch, and fought over by early Swedish and Dutch settlers, Pennsylvania became an English colony in 1681. Pennsylvania played a key role in the American Revolution and in the founding of the new American government: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the US Constitution were written in Philadelphia. The state became the second to join the Union, in 1787.

Physical Pennsylvania contains five main regions: the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Ridge and Valley region, the Appalachian Plateau, and the Central and Lowland area, bordering Lake Erie.

The Coastal Plain in Pennsylvania's southeastern corner is a low-lying area of poor soils at the confluence of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. Elevations range from sea level to 60 m/200 ft. West of Philadelphia lies the higher Piedmont with elevations 60–370 m/200–1,220 ft. The Piedmont stretches across most of Pennsylvania's southeastern counties. Fertile soils support a productive agricultural region around Philadelphia.

West of the Piedmont lies the Ridge and Valley region, defined in the east by the Great Valley, which stretches diagonally from Franklin County at the Pennsylvania–Maryland border northeast through Allentown and Northampton County. Here, a ridge on the north side looks out on a flat limestone valley to the south, which is traversed by the Susquehanna and Schuylkill rivers. This valley provides fertile soil for agriculture. Further west is a southwest–northeast curved band of parallel ridges separated by narrow valleys.

The western half of Pennsylvania is dominated by the Appalachian Plateau, stretching from the southwest borders to the Delaware River in the northeast. This elevated region is dissected by rivers, giving some areas mountainous terrain. It contains abundant mineral resources, such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The eastern edge of the Appalachian Plateau is the Allegheny Front, an escarpment that forms a diagonal line across the state. The Allegheny Mountains lie along the southern half of this front, while the Poconos are its northeastern extension. The rugged Allegheny Mountains contain the highest elevations in Pennsylvania, ranging from 235 m/775 ft to Mount Davis at 980 m/3,210 ft.

Further west, elevations in the province vary. The gently undulating Pittsburgh Plateau (200–520 m/660–1,700 ft) covers most of southwest Pennsylvania and contains the bulk of the state's bituminous coal. The northwest part of the province contains higher elevations of 330–760 m/1,080–2,500 ft. Here there are deep, angular valleys, and the region is almost entirely covered by the Allegheny National Forest. These plateau regions are drained by the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which meet to form the Ohio River at Pittsburgh. Many of the landforms at the northern edge of the Appalachian Plateaux region are due to glaciation.

Finally, the Central and Lowland area is a narrow strip bordering Lake Erie in the northwest corner of the state. Elevations range from 170 m/570 ft at Lake Erie to 300 m/1,000 ft near the Appalachian Plateau.

Pennsylvania has a continental climate with wide fluctuations in seasonal temperatures and rainfall.

Features Pennsylvania's oldest buildings date from the Swedish colonial era and include Christ (Old Swedes') Church in Swedesburg; the St James Church of Kingsessing; St Gabriel's Episcopal Church and Mouns Jones (Old Swede's) House in Douglassville; Lower Swedish Cabin in Drexel Hill; the Morton Homestead in Prospect Park, the oldest structure in the state; and Governor Printz Park in Essington, the site of the old New Sweden capital. Pennsylvania Dutch country (the name comes from Deutsch, meaning German) was settled in the 18th century by German immigrants escaping religious persecution, and was the home to several sects, including the Amish, who remain in Lancaster County. Hans Herr House (1719), a former Mennonite meeting place, is considered the best example of early German architecture in North America.

Point State Park in Pittsburgh contains the historic British bastion Fort Pitt and Bushy Run Battlefield, where critical struggles during the French and Indian War took place. The Fort Pitt Museum is dedicated to the frontier period of local history. Carnegie Mellon University, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1900, is internationally renowned for computer science and engineering.

Philadelphia is considered the birthplace of the USA. Independence National Historic Park is home to a wide range of historic buildings: Carpenter Hall, where the First Continental Congress met in 1774; Congress Hall; Declaration House; Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on 4 July 1776; Old City Hall, used by the Supreme Court until 1800; the Liberty Bell; Christ Church, one of the most beautiful colonial structures in the USA; Deshler Morris House, a former official residence of President George Washington; Franklin Court, where Benjamin Franklin lived as president of Pennsylvania; and the Franklin Institute Science Museum. The University of Pennsylvania (1740), part of the Ivy League, is the oldest university in the USA. Two historic colleges are located near Philadelphia: Bryn Mawr College (1880) and Swarthmore College (1864).

Near Philadelphia, Washington Crossing State Park and Valley Forge National Historical Park mark important American Revolution sites associated with Washington's command and the endurance of the Continental Army. The Erie Maritime Museum is home to the US Brig Niagara, the warship that won the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. In Lancaster, Wheatland is the former stately home of former US president James Buchanan.

Gettysburg is the most important Civil War site in Pennsylvania, the site of the famous battle of 1863. The Gettysburg National Cemetery in the Gettysburg National Military Park is a burial ground for the Union soldiers who died there.

Pennsylvania has many early industrial revolution sites, including Mill Bridge Village in Lancaster County, featuring a fully working gristmill; Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site at French Creek State Park; the Old Economy Village in Ambridge, a National Historic Landmark where the Christian Harmony Society established a prosperous community in 1824; and the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum at Scranton, detailing the history of the mines, mills, and factories of the region. The Kinzua Viaduct in the Allegheny National Forest Region had been designated a National Engineering Landmark, but it was largely destroyed by a tornado in 2003. In Titusville, the Drake Well Museum marks the spot where Edwin L Drake drilled the world's first oil well in 1859. Hershey, the ‘Chocolate Town’, was founded by Milton S Hershey in 1903.

Pennsylvania also has many parks and forests, including Promised Land State Park on the Pocono Plateau, surrounded by Pennsylvania's Delaware State Forest; the Delaware Water Gap, a spectacular gorge; Glens Natural Area of Ricketts Glen State Park; and Leonard Harrison state park at the east rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

Culture Pennsylvania includes some of the oldest settlements in the USA and has a long history of mixed ethnicities and cultures, stemming from its early Swedish and German colonies and later its factories and industrial towns. Many Pennsylvanians have English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Scots-Irish, Italian, or Eastern European ancestry. Black American history also runs deep; Philadelphia has a large black community.

Pennsylvania is associated with scientist and politician Benjamin Franklin and the Enlightenment, with industrialism and wealth, as well as with blue-collar working-class immigrant culture. Pennsylvania has a long tradition of public museums and commitment to public education.

The Scandinavian Society and the Pennsylvania German Society preserve ethnic traditions and folklore. Pennsylvanian Dutch culture has its own dialect and idioms. Lutheran, Quaker, Moravian, French Huguenot, Scots-Irish Presbyterian, German Baptist Brethren, and Swiss Mennonite religious culture is well preserved. These communities are collectively known as the ‘Plain People’.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia is one of the country's foremost museums of ancient culture. The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses some of the largest art collections in the USA, including Asian painting, textiles, and ceramics; a 13th-century French cloister; masterpieces of Renaissance painting; a suite of 18th-century French interiors; Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings; work by early Philadelphia craftsmen; and the most important collection in the world of works by Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins.

The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh includes the Carnegie Museum of Art, with important collections of architecture, decorative art, film and video, sculpture and painting, as well as the largest museum devoted to a single artist in the USA, the Andy Warhol Museum. The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg has a large collection of 20th-century regional artefacts, as well as exhibits in technology, archaeology, fine and decorative arts, and state curiosities.

Pennsylvania has many music resources, including the Curtis Institute of Music in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Honouring the state's German influences, annual Bach festivals are held in Bethlehem and in Philadelphia. The Poconos are home to many folk festivals, including Poconos Greatest Irish Festival and the Poconos Blues Festival. The Pocono Musical Gathering on the Mountain celebrates the psychedelic rock and roll music scene of the late 1960s.

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney every February, and Charter Day in March, commemorating the founding of the Pennsylvania colony, are two traditional state festive events. In recognition of its Enlightenment heritage, Pittsburgh is home to an annual science and technology festival, held in April.

Pennsylvania has professional basketball (Philadelphia 76ers), ice hockey (Philadephia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins), American football (Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers), and baseball (Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates) teams.

GovernmentPennsylvania's state constitution Pennsylvania has had four constitutions since the American Revolution: 1776, 1790, 1838, and 1874. The 1874 constitution was revised at the constitutional convention of 1967–68, and is still used.

Structure of state government Pennsylvania is called a ‘commonwealth’. Its government consists of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

The legislative body, the General Assembly, consists of a 50-member Senate and a 203-member House of Representatives. Each senator is elected to a four-year term, and each representative to a two-year term. Pennsylvania sends 18 representatives and two senators to the US Congress. It has 20 electoral votes in presidential elections.

The governor is Pennsylvania's chief executive, elected for four years, and limited to two consecutive terms. Republican Tom Corbett took the governorship in January 2011.

Pennsylvania's judicial system includes the Supreme Court, the superior court and the commonwealth court, common pleas courts, and the minor courts. With the exception of the minor courts, justices and judges in all courts serve ten-year terms and stand for election. The Supreme Court, the highest authority in the state, consists of seven justices.

There are many local jurisdictions in Pennsylvania, all with their own government. Pennsylvania has 67 counties and 2,561 municipalities, including boroughs, townships, and cities.

Economy Pennsylvania was a leader in heavy industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, producing most of the nation's steel. It was also a major producer of bituminous and anthracite coal, and the state economy benefited from its trading position on the Atlantic seaboard.

Following the Great Depression, heavy industry declined, partly due to population shifts from the northeast to the Sunbelt (the USA south of Washington, DC), but the state continues to produce heavy machinery, metal products, and transport equipment, along with coal, petroleum products, and natural gas. Chemical products, processed foods, and computer and electronic equipment are other leading manufactures.

Pennsylvania's agricultural regions in the Great Valley and the southeast produce dairy products, poultry, cattle, hay, and cereals. Other important commodities are mushrooms, a variety of fruits, sweetcorn, and potatoes.

HistoryIndigenous peoples Pennsylvania was originally home to several Algonquian- and Iroquoian-speaking American Indian peoples, the most important of whom were the Delaware (Lenni Lenape), Shawnee, Susquehannock, and Seneca tribes. The Delaware were an Algonquian-speaking people inhabiting the Delaware River basin. The Shawnee were Algonquian people, who had come from the west as far as the lower Susquehanna. The Susquehannock were an Iroquoian-speaking tribe living along the Susquehanna River. The Dutch and Swedes' name for them was Minqua, meaning ‘treacherous’. Though Iroquoian-speaking, they were bitter enemies of the Iroquois. The Seneca, another Iroquoian-speaking tribe, was an original member of the Five Nations of the Iroquois League. The Seneca expanded southward into northwestern Pennsylvania during the 17th century.

Exploration and settlement Claims to the region were disputed by Sweden, the Netherlands, and England early in the 17th century. English Captain John Smith explored the Susquehanna River in 1608, encountering the Susquehannock Indians, and in 1609, Englishman Henry Hudson claimed Delaware Bay for the Dutch. Dutch navigators Cornelis Hendrickson and Cornelis Jacobsen explored the bay extensively, in 1616 and 1623 respectively, after which the Dutch established trading posts.

The first permanent settlements on Pennsylvanian soil, however, belonged to the Swedes. Johan Printz set up the capital of New Sweden at Tinicum Island in 1643. The Dutch had established permanent settlements in Pennsylvania by 1647, and conflict ensued between the two colonies until 1655, when Peter Stuyvesant seized New Sweden and made it part of New Netherlands.

In 1664, England seized the Dutch territory for the Duke of York. Pennsylvania thereafter remained in English hands, with the exception of 1673–74, when the Dutch briefly recaptured the territory.

The colonial period In 1681, King Charles II of England granted a charter to the Quaker leader William Penn. In 1682, Penn called Pennsylvania's first General Assembly and set forth a Frame of Government, a forerunner of constitutional government. This was replaced in 1701 by the Charter of Privileges, which remained the basis of government until the American Revolution.

Relations with local American Indians were at first good, and Penn's policy of toleration attracted religious dissidents from England, particularly Quakers, and from Germany, among them the Amish and the Mennonites. The Germans settled mainly in southeastern Pennsylvania and came to be known as the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’. The prosperous agricultural settlement east of the Appalachians soon came to be regarded as the ‘keystone’ of the British colonies, midway between New England and the plantation South.

Pennsylvania was the primary venue for fighting in the French and Indian War, due to a convergence of American Indian tribal conflicts and European interests. Algonquian-speaking tribes (along with the Susquehannocks) fought with the French against the English and their Iroquoian allies, the Seneca. When the war ended in 1763, England retained control of all of Pennsylvania.

American Revolution Philadelphia's commercial importance and Penn's legacy contributed to Pennsylvania's key role in the American Revolution. In 1774, the First Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia rejected colonial rule, and a Second Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence. War broke out in 1776. Key revolutionary battles were fought in Pennsylvania 1777–78, including engagements at Germantown, Brandywine, and Whitemarsh. The British captured Philadelphia in 1777, after which Washington and his troops retreated to Valley Forge for the winter, where they endured freezing temperatures, starvation, and disease, and yet emerged an effective fighting force in June 1778.

Early statehood and the Civil War Philadelphia continued to be a focal point for the fledgling nation after the war. The Federal Constitutional Convention drafted the US Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the constitution, in that year. The state's population grew substantially during the 19th century, with immigration due to the Irish potato famine and political unrest in Germany. The state's infrastructure and industry also expanded in this period. By 1834, the State Works of Pennsylvania linked the eastern and western parts of the state by an extensive canal system and constructed the Pennsylvania Railroad through the Appalachians in the 1850s. Textile mills, foundries, and machine shops proliferated in the period leading up to the Civil War.

The Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780 meant that by 1850 all black Americans in Pennsylvania were free, except those that had fled from the South. Pennsylvania's position on the Mason–Dixon Line and its resources made it a target of Southern military advances during the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg, which stemmed these advances, was a turning point in the Civil War for the Union cause.

Industrialism and progress Following the Civil War, during Reconstruction Pennsylvania's industrial economy burgeoned. The discovery of oil at Titusville in 1847 led to the development of refineries. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie built his steel-making empire during this time. Until 1920, Pennsylvania was dominant in oil, coal, iron, steel, and textile production, but it was already losing its industrial lead when the Great Depression struck; by 1933, 37% of the workforce was unemployed.

In the 1960s, under the moderate Republican governor, Bill Scranton, the state's educational system was reformed, with the creation of a state community college system, and a programme was launched to promote the state's products at home and abroad. From the late 1970s, the economy began to turn around, based more around service industries, and there has been population growth, with immigration from as far as Asia and Latin America.

Since the start of the 21st century, the state has looked to agriculture, service-related industries, trade, and tourism for economic growth. Environmental issues plagued the state in the 1970s, particularly the impact of mining in the southwest and the breakdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor plant in Harrisburg in 1979.

Famous peoplesport Arnold Palmer (1929– ), golfer

the arts Benjamin West (1738–1820), painter; Stephen Foster (1826–1864), songwriter; Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), writer; Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), painter; Gertrude Stein (1874–1946), writer; Man Ray (1890–1970), photographer and painter; Martha Graham (1894–1991), dancer and choreographer; Alexander Calder (1898–1976), sculptor; Marian Anderson (1902–1993), singer; James Stewart (1908–1997), actor; Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009), painter; Andy Warhol (1928–1987), artist; John Updike (1932–2009), writer; Bill Cosby (1937– ), comedian and actor; Richard Gere (1949– ), actor

science Robert Fulton (1765–1815), engineer; Robert E Peary (1856–1920), polar explorer; Theodore Richards (1868–1928), Nobel Prize-winning chemist; B F Skinner (1904–1990), psychologist; Rachel Carson (1907–1964), biologist; William Fowler (1911–1995), Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist; J Presper Eckert (1919–1995), engineer

society and education Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), industrialist and philanthropist; Margaret Mead (1901–1978), anthropologist

economics Andrew Mellon (1855–1937), financier; Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), management consultant

politics and law William Penn (1644–1718), founder of the Pennsylvania colony; Benjamin Rush (1745–1813), political leader; James Buchanan (1791–1868), 15th president of the USA; George C Marshall (1880–1959), general and diplomat.


Pennsylvania History


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