95 Fun & Interesting Facts About Pennsylvania, USA

Pennsylvania state is famous for Hershey chocolates, Benjamin Franklin, and its key role in American history.

Find out what else the “Keystone State” is known for with these fascinating Pennsylvania facts!

General Pennsylvania Facts

  • Pennsylvania is a US state in the nation’s Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Appalachian, and Great Lakes regions.
  • The Appalachian Mountains run through the middle of Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvania is almost a perfect rectangle, except for a bump on the northwest corner, and the eastern side is uneven.
  • Pennsylvania is 46,055 mi² (119,283 km²), making it the 33rd largest state. This puts it between Mississippi and Ohio in terms of size.
  • If it were a country, it would be the 99th largest in the world, between North Korea and Malawi in terms of size.
View of the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg, with buildings reflecting on the river and a yellow sky
The Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg
  • Pennsylvania has a population of just over 13 million, making it the 5th most populous state, between New York State and Illinois. It is the 9th most densely populated state.
  • Harrisburg is the capital city of Pennsylvania. With only 51,000 people, there are 14 other cities larger than it in the state. However, if the city’s whole metropolitan area (population 590,000) is considered, it is the 4th largest city in the state.
  • Philadelphia is by the far the state’s largest city, with a population of 1.6 million (metropolitan 6.2 million), making it the 6th largest city in the country, after New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix.
  • Greater Philadelphia is also called the Delaware Valley. Besides Philadelphia city in Pennsylvania, it also includes parts of neighboring New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.
  • It’s only about 80 miles (129 kilometers) from the center of Philadelphia to the center of New York City.
Aerial view of downtown Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s skyline
  • Pittsburgh is the state’s 2nd largest city, with a population of 303,000 (metropolitan 2.4 million). It is the largest city in the western part of the state.
  • Some of the major Native American tribes who originally inhabited Pennsylvania were the Shawnee, Delaware, Iroquois, and Susquehannock.
  • The state is officially called the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Three other states call themselves commonwealths: Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
  • People from Pennsylvania are called Pennsylvanians.
  • PA is the abbreviation for Pennsylvania.
  • William Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania. He named the state in honor of Sir William Penn, his father. In Latin, the name means “Penn’s woods”.
Aerial view of a large round fountain beside the river and skyscrapers of downtown Pittsburg
Point State Fountain Park in Pittsburgh
  • Pennsylvania became known as the “Keystone State” for its essential role in the founding of the US. It is also a “keystone” in that it has both the industry of the north and agriculture of the south.
  • Other nicknames for Pennsylvania have included “Chocolate State”, “Quaker State”, and “Coal State”.
  • Tourism slogans for Pennsylvania have included “Pennsylvania. Pursue Your Happiness,” “The State of Independence,” “Pennsylvania Memories Last a Lifetime,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania,” and “America Starts Here.”
  • “Virtue, Liberty and Independence” is the official state motto of Pennsylvania.
  • The official insect of the state is the Pennsylvania firefly, which is technically a carnivorous beetle.
The state flag of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania state flag
  • The state flag features Pennsylvania’s coat of arms on a blue background. The coat of arms has a ship for commerce, a plough for natural resources, and three sheaves of wheat for agriculture. A cornstalk and olive branch represent prosperity and peace, while the state’s loyalty is represented by a bald eagle.
  • The official state beverage is milk, the same as 21 other states.

Random Interesting Facts About Pennsylvania

  • Three Pennsylvania cities were formerly the capital of the United States before Washington D.C.: Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York.
  • The world’s largest Amish community is located in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. They number around 30,000, a figure that is growing.
  • The Gettysburg Address, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence were all written in the state of Pennsylvania.
A painting of Washington crossing the river in a boat
Famous painting of the Washington Crossing, which happened in Pennsylvania
  • The Crossing of the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey is reenacted each Christmas Day at Washington Crossing, a town named after the event.
  • Although there are no national parks in Pennsylvania, the state has 124 state parks. The largest is Pymatuning State Park, which contains a large water reservoir shared with Ohio. The most visited is Presque Isle State Park, which protects a small isle with beaches and lighthouses on Lake Erie.
  • There is one UNESCO World Heritage Site located entirely in Pennsylvania: Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This is where the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution were first discussed and adopted.
  • The Liberty Bell, a symbol of American Independence, was once housed in Independence Hall. Today it is in Liberty Bell Center across the street.
Exterior of the red brick Independence hall in Philadelphia
Independence Hall
  • The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright” is a multi-state UNESCO World Heritage Site with buildings in Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Pennsylvania building is Fallingwater, a summer home that appears to float over a stream and waterfall, built in 1935. It has been called “the best all-time work of American architecture.”
  • There are 169 National Historic Landmarks in Pennsylvania, the 3rd most of any state after New York and Massachusetts. This list includes the Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farmstead, Horseshoe Curve railway, and numerous other historic houses, canals, forges, churches, battle fields and more.
  • Some funny town names in Pennsylvania include Blue Ball, Virginville, Intercourse, Jugtown, Lover, Honey Hole, Climax, Mars, King of Prussia, Pancake, and Noodle Doosie.
Exterior of Fallingwater, a famous house in Pennsylvania, with greenery around it and a waterfall flowing from under it
Wright’s famous Fallingwater house
  • Indiana County, Pennsylvania is considered the world’s Christmas tree capital.
  • Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania grows half of the country’s mushrooms.
  • 24 Fortune 500 companies are based in Pennsylvania, including the likes of Hershey (chocolate), Vialtris, and AmerisourceBergen (both pharmaceuticals).
  • In fact, the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania was originally built as a model town for the workers at Milton’s Hershey factory.
two bars of Hershey's chocolate standing up in front of glass jars of treats
Hershey’s is a famous Pennsylvania name
  • Pennsylvania is the country’s leading producer of prescription drugs and aspirin.
  • The state is also the top producer of paint, synthetic resin, and petrochemicals.           
  • The Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo to open in the country. It was first chartered in 1859, but it’s opening was delayed until 1874 due to the Civil War. When it first opened, it cost 25 cents to enter.
  • George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. designed the world’s first Ferris wheel for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 while living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
  • The wooden Leap-the-Dips at Lakemont Park in Pennsylvania is the country’s oldest roller coaster that is still standing and running. It was first opened in 1902.
Close up of a handful of crayola crayons
Crayola, a world-famous Pennsylvania brand
  • Crayola colored crayons were invented in Pennsylvania in 1903. Today, 3 billion crayons are produced each year at the Crayola Factory in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. There is also a Crayola Experience in Easton, where they were invented.
  • Kennywood is one of two amusement parks in the US (along with Rye Playland Park in New York state) that is a National Historic Landmark.
  • Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia was the 6th president of Pennsylvania. His long list of inventions include the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and swimming fins.
  • The world’s first drive-in gas station opened in Pittsburg in 1913.
A collage of things invented in Pennsylvania
Some famous Pennsylvania inventions
  • Professor Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg invented the smiley face emoticon on September 19, 1982.
  • The polio vaccine is another Pittsburgh invention, and the vaccine was first given to the children in Pittsburgh.
  • Bingo was invented by Hugh J. Ward of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The game originally used beans as markers and was called Beano.
  • Other things invented in Pennsylvania include the pencil with attached eraser, the slinky, and bubble gum.
  • Some of the most famous people from Pennsylvania include actors Will Smith and Seth Green, actresses Sharon Stone and Tina Fey, basketball player Kobe Bryant, Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, talk show host Dennis Miller, and author-activist Noam Chomsky.
A mosaic of famous people from Pennsylvania
Famous Pennsylvanians Dan Marino, Kobe Bryant, Taylor Swift, Joe Biden, Sharon Stone, and Will Smith (clockwise from top-left)
  • Six Hall of Fame quarterbacks called Pittsburgh home, including George Blanda, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino.
  • Two US presidents were born in Pennsylvania: James Buchanan (15th president) and Joe Biden (46th president).
  • Some of the bands and musicians from Pennsylvania include Taylor Swift, Boyz II Men, P!nk, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Joan Jett, Bille Holiday, Bill Haley & His Comets, Poison, Live, Jill Scott, Bloodhound Gang, Ween, and the Dead Milkmen.
  • Mount Davis is Pennsylvania’s highest point, at 3,213 ft (979 m) above sea level. The state’s lowest point is on the Delaware River, at sea level.
  • Pennsylvania’s record low temperature was 42°F (-41°C) on January 5, 1904 at Smethport, while the highest was 111°F (44°C) on July 9 and 10, 1936 at Phoenixville.
A round red barn covered in snow in winter in pennsylvania
A snowy day in rural Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania has several weird old laws that still exist on paper. For instance, it’s illegal to sing in a bathtub or to discharge a firearm at a wedding.
  • It’s also against the law to sleep on top of a refrigerator outdoors.
  • Female residents of Morrisville, Pennsylvania legally need permit in order to wear makeup.
  • No matter how irritated you may be, don’t attempt to sell or barter your child – it’s considered a misdemeanor.

Historical Facts About Pennsylvania

  • According to archaeological findings, the first people to inhabit Pennsylvania arrived during the last glacial period, approximately 15,000 years ago.
  • The earliest known sign of human activity in Pennsylvania was discovered in the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, which contained remains of civilizations from over 10,000 years ago.
View of the Delaware River with only trees on either side
The Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania was the site of some of the earliest European settlers
  • In 1609, Henry Hudson claimed the majority of the Pennsylvania region for the Dutch.
  • In 1655, New Netherlands seized New Sweden after trouble broke out between the Dutch and Swedes, both of which had trading posts in the region.
  • In 1664, the English took control, granting the area to the Duke of York, the king’s brother.
  • In 1681, William Penn was granted land in the area, which he would call the province of “Pennsylvania” or “Penn’s woods.”
  • Penn founded Philadelphia in 1682.
An old color painting of some quakers
Philadelphia used to be known as “Quaker State”
  • The first slaves began arriving in Pennsylvania in 1684. Within 100 years, 15% of all Pennsylvania homes had slaves.
  • A large number of Quakers also arrived in the state, leading it to be called “Quaker State”. Immigration from Europe, especially Germany and Ireland, exploded in the early 1700s.
  • Pittsburgh was founded in 1758, and named after British statesman William Pitt, the 1st Earl of Chatham.
  • The border between Pennsylvania and Maryland was established in 1767, and later came to be considered the border between the North and South.
  • In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed at Independence Hall in Pennsylvania.
  • After the end of the war in 1787, Pennsylvania became the 2nd state of the US after Delaware.
Close up of the dome of the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg, with a US flag flying on the right
The Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg
  • In 1812, the capital was moved from Lancaster to Harrisburg.
  • In 1846, the Liberty Bell famously became cracked when it was rung on President’s Day.
  • Colonel Edwin Drake dug the first purposefully dug oil well in the world in 1859 near Titusville, Pennsylvania. By 1881, the state was producing more than 75% of the world’s oil, leading to it being called the “Oil State.”
  • In 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the turning points of the Civil War, took place in Pennsylvania. Four months later, Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address at the site where the Union forces had defeated the Confederate forces.
  • In 1894, the Hershey Chocolate Company was founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Main tower of Philadelphia City Hall viewed from between two buildings
Philadelphia City Hall
  • KDKA, the first commercial radio station to open in Pennsylvania, was founded in Pittsburgh in 1920.
  • In 1924, the Liberty Tunnels were opened in Pittsburgh. At 5,889 ft (1795 m), they were the longest in the world at the time they were built.
  • In 1953, the vaccine for polio was invented at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • In 1971, the State Constitution was amended by voters to guarantee equal rights for both sexes.
  • In 2001, the hijacked United Airlines flight 93 crashed southeast of Pittsburgh. All 45 passengers and crew were killed.
  • Nine coal miners were trapped underground for 77 hours due to flooding in Somerset in 2002.
Ruins of Kinzua Bridge
  • In 2003, Kinzua Bridge, once the longest and tallest railroad bridge in the world, collapsed during a tornado.
  • In 2004, slot machines were legalized in Pennsylvania. Casino gambling followed in 2010.
  • On March 6, 2020, Pennsylvania reported its first cases of COVID-19.
  • In 2022, a Pennsylvania court ruled mail-in voting unconstitutional.