History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People
and Iroquoian Native Americans lived in the Pennsylvania region when Dutch
explores first visited in 1609.
Henry Hudson sent word of the area after sailing into the Delaware
Bay in search of a trade route to the East.
In 1615, Cornelius Hendricksen reached what is now Philadelphia.
established the first permanent settlements near Philadelphia in 1643.
Dutch troops conquered the area in 1655 until England took control
of it in 1664.
In 1681, King Charles II granted the land to William Penn.
He named the region Sylvania, meaning woods.
“Penn” was added later by the King in honor of William’s
Penn, a Quaker, desired religious freedom and self-government for all who
became colonists of Pennsylvania.
Shortly after arriving, Penn signed treaties with the Native
Americans and paid them for the land he was given.
In 1682, he founded the city of Philadelphia.
Penn returned to England in 1684.
Several conflicts arose in his absence, and many changes resulted
in Pennsylvania’s government.
the late 1600s to the mid-1700s, many battles were fought between England
and France, both of whom wanted the land of North America.
The French and Indian War began in western Pennsylvania in 1754.
One of the worst battles occurred near present-day Pittsburgh,
where most of British General Edward Braddock’s troops were killed.
Fighting continued in Pennsylvania until 1758; the war ended with a
British victory in 1763.
pay for the war with France, England forced new taxes and trade
restrictions on the American colonies.
The colonies united and refused to pay taxes.
The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on Sept. 5,
1774, and voted to stop all trade with England.
In 1775, George Washington was appointed head of the army and the
Revolutionary War began.
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted in the
Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia.
armies invaded Pennsylvania in Sept. 1777.
George Washington’s troops were defeated several times, beginning
with Battle of Brandywine Creek.
Britain killed many Americans in the Paoli Massacre just outside of
They then crossed the Schuylkill River and captured Philadelphia on
Sept. 26, 1777.
Washington’s army led an attack to force them out of the city,
but the attack failed.
Washington led his troops to nearby Valley Forge, where they spent
a very harsh winter and spring.
Many of the settlers in the Luzerne County fled to a fort near present-day Wilkes-Barre. Just after Britain left Philadelphia in the summer of 1778, several British soldiers and Indians raided this small fort killing about two-thirds of the settlers. This incident became known as the Wyoming Valley Massacre.
Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787.
Pennsylvania became the 2nd state to ratify the U.S.
Constitution and joined the United States of America on Dec. 12, 1787.
Philadelphia served as the new nation’s capital from 1790 to
before the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvania led the nation in iron and
grain milling production.
Many significant inventions were developed there.
The steamboat was first demonstrated in 1787, and by 1811 became a
form of travel on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Large canals were built that connected railroads and linked
Philadelphia with Pittsburgh.
In 1859, the nation’s first successful oil well was drilled near
Pennsylvania became a leader of textile, leather, iron and glass
1860, the issue of slavery divided the nation.
Many Pennsylvanians were leaders of the abolitionist movement,
which helped slaves escape to freedom.
Pennsylvania sent 340,000 troops to help fight for the Union.
In 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest battles
in history and also a major turning point in the Civil War.
After three days of fighting, the Confederate armies retreated to
President Abraham Lincoln later dedicated part of this battlefield
as a cemetery for soldiers who had died there.
It was there he delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.
The Confederacy surrendered in 1865.
industries continued to expand and develop following the Civil War.
The state became a leading producer of oil, cement, electrical
equipment, and aluminum.
In 1873, Pittsburgh established the nation’s first steel mill.
Thousands of immigrants rushed to Pennsylvania looking for work.
Many labor problems resulted from the large influx in population.
the early 1900s, Pennsylvania continued to prosper.
Much of the coal and steel for the United States was produced in
Many large industrial companies moved there.
As the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Pennsylvania supplied
ships, weapons, and steel to help soldiers win the war.
Great Depression (1929-1939) closed mines and steel mills.
Unemployment of Pennsylvania’s miners and steelworkers reached
almost 80 percent, as hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs.
State leaders passed welfare laws and set a minimum wage for women
State programs provided jobs in highway construction, conservation,
and production of natural resources.
World War II (1939-1945) also helped to end the Depression.
Pennsylvania provided clothing, coal, steel, ships, and weapons for
the war, several of Pennsylvania’s large industries were hurt as
competition from other states increased and the need for coal and railroad
Thousands of workers lost their jobs.
State leaders created jobs through construction projects.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia experienced major redevelopment of the
downtown areas and hundreds of new schools were built.
has struggled with pollution and natural disasters throughout its history
In 1889, a flood near Johnstown killed more than 2,000 people.
In 1936, floodwaters swept across much of the state killing more
than 100 people and causing $40 million in damage.
In 1972, a tropical storm resulted in 55 deaths and over $3 billion
An accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg
in 1979, threatened the release of deadly levels of radiation in the area.
And the most recent occurred on May 31, 1985, when a group of
tornadoes hit the northern part of the state, killing 65 and causing
damages estimated at $375 million.