Are you from Pennsylvania and wanted to find some interesting facts about your home state? Or, are you an educator teaching your students about the fifty states of the United States and Pennsylvania is up next? No matter the reason that brought you here, you’ll learn some new and cool facts. Check out the fun facts about Pennsylvania below!
Facts About Pennsylvania
PENNSYLVANIA STATE NAME
In the late 17th century, the land now known as Pennsylvania was originally granted to William Penn by King Charles II to repay for the debt the king owed William Penn’s father. He had wanted the land to be named “Sylvania”, which is Latin for “woods”. King Charles II had a different idea and named the land after Penn’s father, William Penn, Sr.
The state is also known as the Keystone State, which is a nickname that refers to a central stone at the top of an arch that holds all the other stones together. This could mean that PA is known for holding the colonies and then later the U.S. together.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE NUMBER
Pennsylvania was not the first state to join the United States, but it wasn’t far behind the first. In 1787, the U.S. Constitution was written in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city. In December of that year, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution. Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution only five days later.
STATE CAPITAL OF PENNSYLVANIA
Although the Declaration of Independence was written in Pennsylvania’s biggest city, Philadelphia, back in 1776, Philadelphia is not the current capital. For a while, Philadelphia served as the temporary capital, then bounced over to Lancaster, PA as Philadelphia was also serving as the U.S. capital. Finally, in 1812 Harrisburg became the permanent capital of the state.
PENNSYLVANIA’S STATE SONG
Believe it or not, Pennsylvania does have its very own song. In 1990, the regional anthem was written and composed by artists Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner. It is called “Pennsylvania”. Here is a sample of the chorus to the song:
May your future be,
Filled with honor everlasting
as your history”
STATE MOTTO OF PENNSYLVANIA
In 1778, Caleb Lownes, a Philadelphian Quaker, designed the Pennsylvania coat of arms that is almost exact to what it is today.
On it featured a shield, an American Bald Eagle, harnessed black horses, and the later adopted state motto. “Virtue, Liberty and Independence.” The motto certainly pays homage to Pennsylvania’s role in the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence.
PENNSYLVANIA’S STATE ANIMAL
During the time that settlers were adjusting to their new lives in a strange new world, it became clear that there was an abundance of deer that they could hunt for food.
The Native American’s also relied heavily on this resource. In particular, the deer most prevalent in PA was and still is the White-Tailed Deer. So, it seems almost natural to have the White-Tailed Deer become the State Animal of Pennsylvania due to its role in feeding the early settlers.
STATE BIRD OF PENNSYLVANIA
Standing a little over a foot and a half tall with grey and brown feathers, the Ruffed Grouse is the chosen State Bird of Pennsylvania.
Their wingspan is only a few inches longer than their body length. This bird gets its name from the male bird’s black ring of feathers around their necks, almost like an Elizabethan costume.
PENNSYLVANIA’S STATE BUTTERFLY
Pennsylvania is one of many states that surprisingly don’t have a state butterfly. The most common butterflies that you may see if you take a hike in PA include the Mourning Cloak, the Cabbage White, the Orange Sulphur, the Pearl Crescentspot butterflies among a few others.
STATE AMPHIBIAN OF PENNSYLVANIA
Pennsylvania’s state amphibian is the Eastern Hellbender. He’s the largest member of the aquatic giant salamanders found in eastern and central United States. The Hellbender has picked up quite a few nicknames that may feel more familiar, like Lasagna Lizard, or Spotted Water Gecko, or Alleghany Alligator.
PENNSYLVANIA’S STATE INSECT
Catching fireflies is a great pastime. In 1974, the Pennsylvania firefly became Pennsylvania’s state insect. It’s also known as a lightening bug. If you’re visiting PA in the summer, be on the lookout at dusk when these guys light the night up with their greenish-yellow glowing bottoms!
STATE FISH OF PENNSYLVANIA
This fish gets around, as it is also the state fish of eight other U.S. states! The Brook Trout is a spotted freshwater fish with a red belly. Pennsylvania and other nearby eastern U.S. states are the Brook Trout’s native land, but they’ve been introduced throughout the country and are even considered invasive in some states. What a controversial fishy!
STATE FLOWER OF PENNSYLVANIA
The beautiful Mountain Laurel flower is the state flower of Pennsylvania. It’s white petals and pink accents are only a small part of what makes these flowers incredible.
The Mountain Laurel has this crazy method of spreading its pollen. As the flower grows, it builds tension in its stamens (the part of the flower that contains the pollen). When a hungry bee or butterfly comes by, the flower releases the tension and forcefully catapults the pollen onto the insect! The pollen has been known to travel up to 15 cm (that’s nearly half a foot!).
PENNSYLVANIA STATE TREE
A member of the coniferous tree family, the Eastern Hemlock is the state tree of Pennsylvania. Don’t be fooled by its name. It shares no relation to the poisonous hemlock plant.
The oldest recorded tree was found in Tionesta, PA at 554 years old! The tree can grow from its average height of about 100 feet tall over 170 feet tall. This giant has a big trunk as well, averaging around 5 feet in diameter.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE FRUIT
In 2016, Pennsylvania State Government committee was introduced to the House Bill 1784. This bill was an attempt to declare apples as the official fruit of Pennsylvania.
Although Pennsylvania has more than 21,000 acres dedicated to apple orchards and apples are grown in literally every county of PA, the bill never managed to come to fruition! As of now, Pennsylvania has no official state fruit.
STATE VEGETABLE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Sadly, Pennsylvania doesn’t have an official state vegetable. Corn is the most common crop grown in Pennsylvania, with over 1,000,000 acres harvested in 2019! Aside from hay, nothing else reaches that sort of acreage in Pennsylvania.
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