What is Pennsylvania known for?
Pennsylvania is famous for its rich history and significant historical sites such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It is also known for its industrial past, coal mining, and agrarian countryside. Pennsylvania is known for its pro sports teams as well as the Little League World Series. The state of Pennsylvania is famous also for its Amish community and “Pennsylvania Dutch” heritage.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of these contributions, as well as its unique cultural and natural treasures.
- 28 Things Pennsylvania is Known For
- 1. William Penn
- 2. The American Revolution
- 3. Philadelphia
- 4. Philadelphia Street Food
- 5. Independence Hall
- 6. Liberty Bell
- 7. Benjamin Franklin
- 8. Philadelphia Eagles
- 9. The Keystone State
- 10. Gettysburg National Military Park
- 11. Chocolate Capital of the United States
- 12. Mushroom Capital of the World
- 13. The Christmas Tree Capital of the World
- 14. Coal Mining
- 15. Lake Erie
- 16. Pittsburgh
- 17. The Pittsburgh Steelers
- 18. Pittsburgh Dog
- 19. Primanti Bros.
- 20. Carnegie Mellon University
- 21. The Little League World Series
- 22. The Rust Belt
- 23. Scranton
- 24. Allegheny National Forest
- 25. Agriculture
- 26. The Pennsylvania Dutch
- 27. The Amish
- 28. The Appalachian Mountains
- FAQs About Famous Pennsylvania Things
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28 Things Pennsylvania is Known For
1. William Penn
Pennsylvania gets its name from Admiral Sir William Penn. He was the father of William Penn, the founder of the state. In 1681, King Charles II granted a large amount of land to the younger Penn. The king owed the by-then-deceased Admiral William Penn a debt, and so sought to repay it to Penn’s son, naming the colony for the admiral.
Penn Jr. was a member of a religious group called the Quakers, famous for their pacifism and philanthropy. He enshrined religious freedom in the charter of the colony and took a more benevolent approach to local Native tribes.
❗ Fun Fact: Pennsylvania’s name comes from the last name of its founder, William Penn, and the Latin word for woods or forest, sylvania.
2. The American Revolution
Pennsylvania was one of the original thirteen colonies. As such, it contributed to the revolution of the colonies against British rule. Pennsylvania saw some of the most iconic moments of America’s initial struggle for independence.
Valley Forge lies just northwest of Philadelphia in Chester County. George Washington crossed the Delaware further northeast of Philadelphia. Several significant battles raged on Pennsylvania soil. The state is steeped in the history of this era, and American history buffs will have a heyday exploring the many national monuments here.
Philadelphia was the largest city in early America. It was also the main gathering place of the Founding Fathers. In fact, Philadelphia served as the United States’ capital city until the founding of Washington, D.C. in 1800. Today, you can visit downtown Philly to see the many monuments associated with the Revolution and early American history.
4. Philadelphia Street Food
While strolling the streets of the City of Brotherly Love, why not sample some local cuisine? Philadelphia is famous for Philly Cheesesteaks. These sandwiches are made of thin-sliced beef covered in melted cheese, topped with opinions and green peppers, and served on a hoagie roll.
On the lighter side, you could also get a large soft pretzel from the famous Philly Pretzel Factory. Philadelphia’s pretzels are known for being larger, softer, and longer than the typical pretzel.
5. Independence Hall
In this famous building, the Second Continental Congress, delegates from the thirteen colonies, ratified the Declaration of Independence. Independence Hall first served as the Pennsylvania State House but soon served more as a national capitol building. Several years after the war, in 1787, the United States Constitution was drafted and ratified in this same building.
Today, the building stands as the Independence National Historical Park. The National Park Service preserves the memory of the momentous events that happened here. Independence Hall is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Pennsylvania.
6. Liberty Bell
One of the most famous attractions on display at Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell. This bell first hung in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House in 1751. It was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the colony of Pennsylvania. On July 8, 1776, it would ring out for the establishment of a nation. On that day, it summoned the people of Philadelphia to hear the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The crack in the Liberty Bell developed little by little over the years. While no consensus exists on how and when the cracks first formed, the final fracture is well-documented. It occurred on February 22, 1846, the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday.
7. Benjamin Franklin
Although born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous Philadelphians. During his time in Philadelphia, Franklin, aside from his major contributions to politics, served as the city’s postmaster. He also created the first volunteer fire department in America here.
❓ Trivia Time: What is Massachusetts known for?
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia also boasts many modern attractions. One of the most well-known is its NFL team, the Eagles. Some of the Eagles’ most famous players include Reggie White, Steven Van Buren, and Chuck Bednarik. When not hosting Eagles games, Lincoln Financial Field also serves as the home stadium for the Temple University Owls as well as a concert venue.
9. The Keystone State
Pennsylvania’s nickname comes from architecture. The keystone in an arch is the stone in the middle that holds the whole structure together. In the early stages of America’s existence, especially the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvania played a central role, much like a keystone in an arch.
10. Gettysburg National Military Park
Pennsylvania played a crucial role in the American Civil War as well as the Revolutionary War. The turning point in the conflict between Union Army and the Confederacy occurred in the now-immortal battle at the village of Gettysburg. Here the South lost momentum in the Civil War and the Union gained it. Had the battle gone otherwise, it’s hard to say how later events would have developed.
Today, one can visit the site of the battle, immortalized by many monuments in the Gettysburg National Military Park. The monuments commemorate the individual units from the various state armies that made up the Northern and Southern forces. One can also visit the site where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
11. Chocolate Capital of the United States
Who hasn’t heard of Hershey’s? This famous chocolate comes from a town in southeastern Pennsylvania of the same name. The town developed in order to better accommodate workers at the factory, offering not only homes but all the services one would expect to find in any other town in America. There is even a theme park, Hersheypark, complete with rides, a swimming pool, and other attractions.
12. Mushroom Capital of the World
The town of Kennett Square, a short distance southwest of Philadelphia, makes this bold claim, but more than backs it up. An article by PBS relates that the tiny town produces half a billion pounds of mushrooms a year–almost half of America’s annual production!
13. The Christmas Tree Capital of the World
Pennsylvania has a knack for unique capitals, it seems. The town of Indiana in Indiana County (just east of Pittsburgh) saw one of the first Christmas tree farms in America. The national Christmas Tree Growers’ Association also traces its roots to this town.
The Christmas connection keeps on going, though. Actor Jimmy Stewart, famous for the Christmas Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” was born here. The town honors his memory with a festival of his films at an annual festival named for his most famous holiday film.
❓ Trivia Time: Indiana, Pennsylvania is famous for Christmas trees, but what is the state of Indiana known for?
14. Coal Mining
Mining for coal has long formed an important pillar of the Pennsylvania economy. Bituminous coal, named for the tarry black substance called bitumen, abounds in the Keystone State. This coal comes primarily from western Pennsylvania. Anthracite coal, a higher grade of coal, more frequently comes from the earth in eastern Pennsylvania. Though of higher quality, it is much rarer than the bituminous variety.
15. Lake Erie
The northwestern tip of Pennsylvania borders this Great Lake for 77 miles. The town of Erie sits on the shores of the lake, functioning as a port for Pennsylvania’s various industries. One of the town’s most famous attractions is the USS Niagara, the flagship of Oliver Hazard Perry. Perry, a native of Rhode Island, gained fame for his many naval victories during the War of 1812. He is also accredited with the famous quote, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours;….”
❓ Trivia Time: What states are the Great Lakes in?
This city in Lancaster County is the next most famous after Philadelphia. What it lacks in political/historical significance it makes up for in economic significance. Pittsburgh was a major hub of the Industrial Revolution in America, especially for the steel industry. Steel production was the lifeblood of the town, and, while its role has diminished, continues to be a part of the city’s economy today.
17. The Pittsburgh Steelers
The legacy of Pittsburgh’s steel industry lives on in the name of the city’s football team. Football greats such as Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw, and Troy Polamalu have played for the Steelers. The Steelers share the title for the most Superbowl wins (six) with their nearby neighbors, the New England Patriots.
❓ Trivia Time: What states make up New England?
18. Pittsburgh Dog
Whether you’re taking in a Steelers game or just visiting Pittsburgh, you could take the opportunity to try the one-of-a-kind local variation on the hot dog. The traditional ketchup and mustard are foregone for coleslaw, french fries, and provolone cheese. You could find this distinctive dog at a hot dog stand or local eateries.
19. Primanti Bros.
Pennsylvania has its own chain of sandwich-shop/sports bars across the state. The local specialty is a sandwich consisting of grilled meat, melted cheese, french fries, and coleslaw (I’m sensing a pattern here) served between two slices of Italian bread. The company started out in Pittsburgh, gradually expanding statewide. There are even branches in a few other eastern states, such as West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, and even Florida.
20. Carnegie Mellon University
This university in Pittsburgh is world-famous for its programs and contributions to modern technology. Its faculty and graduates include 20 recipients of the Nobel Prize, as well as many other prestigious awards. While technology may be the forte of the school, it is also known as the first university in the United States to have a drama program. Along with the scientific achievers, graduates of Carnegie Mellon have garnered many entertainment awards.
21. The Little League World Series
In addition to professional sports, Pennsylvania has a reputation in the world of children’s sports. Each year, the town of South Williamsport hosts the biggest annual baseball tournament for children–the Little League World Series. Teams from around the country, as well as several foreign countries, compete in the tournament.
22. The Rust Belt
Pennsylvania’s past is deeply intertwined with industry. During the 1800s, Pennsylvania again became a keystone, not of a political revolution, but of the Industrial Revolution in America. The state’s abundant resources such as coal and steel made the manufacturing business boom. Over time, though, the upsurge in the industry lost momentum, especially as companies outsourced work overseas.
Factories closed and people moved away. The states once known as the “Steel Belt” now bore the more ironic (no pun intended) name of “Rust Belt”. Pennsylvania was no exception. While the state is not “poor” by most standards, one can still see in certain places the remnants of the once-booming industries of the Keystone State’s heyday.
❓ Trivia Time: What states are in the Rust Belt?
This city in northeastern Pennsylvania serves as a good example of the Rust Belt phenomenon. Like other cities in Pennsylvania, it was one of the more important industrial centers in America.
In 1880, a local manufacturing company installed a new technology–electric lights–in its factory, and six years later, the city had eclectic street cars. These innovations earned the city the nickname “The Electric City.”
The various factors that closed factories elsewhere in America also affected Scranton. The previously productive industries declined, but efforts at revitalization by the city government helped the city rebound. Scranton now has a thriving arts scene, and the healthcare industry has helped to rejuvenate the local economy.
24. Allegheny National Forest
It may seem ironic that a state that literally has “forest” in its name has only one national forest. One trip to these woods, though, and you’ll see that they more than make up for this seeming lack.
Whether you like walking, biking, off-roading, or an ordinary car ride, the park has plenty of routes for you to follow; each route allows you to take in the serene natural beauty of the forests. Autumn here is especially beautiful.
In addition to scenic walks and drives, one can visit a number of unique attractions. The most epic, easily, is the Kinzua Sky Walk, an observation deck jutting out 624’ into the Kinzua Gorge, and towering at 225’ at its tallest point.
Despite Pennsylvania’s industrial history, the state also has remarkably beautiful countryside. Outside of the major cities, old-fashioned houses and farms sit atop rolling hills, surrounded by trees that turn to fiery colors in the autumn. If you’re looking for classic rural Americana farmland, Pennsylvania is the place to be.
26. The Pennsylvania Dutch
In Pennsylvania’s early days, many of its immigrants came from different Germanic nations. In English usage of the time, “Dutch” was a blanket term for the various Germanic-speaking nations of central and western Europe. So, despite most of the immigrants not hailing from Holland, the name “Pennsylvania Dutch” came into use.
“Pennsylvania German” may seem more correct to contemporary sensibilities, but, at the time, no unified German nation existed yet. Instead, there were a number of smaller nations and princedoms. Interestingly enough, these immigrants from various Germanic regions wound up melding into one group with its own dialect of German and a unique combination of customs.
27. The Amish
Known for their low-tech lifestyle and social conservatism, Amish communities abound in Pennsylvania. In fact, Pennsylvania has the largest Amish population of any state. While neighboring Ohio may have had that distinction in previous years, recent population growth has redistributed it to Pennsylvania.
28. The Appalachian Mountains
The Pocono Mountains are Pennsylvania’s contribution to this famous mountain range. Here one can find ski resorts, hiking trails, and cozy small towns. The streams and rivers running through the Pocono Mountains offer fishing, rafting, and other aquatic activities to locals and tourists alike.
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FAQs About Famous Pennsylvania Things
What famous people are from Pennsylvania?
Will Smith, Daniel Boone, Andy Warhol, and Kobe Bryant are famous people from Pennsylvania.
Is Pennsylvania part of New England?
Pennsylvania is not considered part of New England, even though it is a northern east-coast state. See our full article on what states make up New England.
So what is Pennsylvania known for?
Pennsylvania is known for some of the most important places and documents in America’s history. Pennsylvania stood at the center of many pivotal moments in American history and continues to be a fascinating place well worth a visit.