Pennsylvania State Facts - Pennsylvania Firsts

Catch up on your state trivia with these Pennsylvania history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.

Official Name Pennsylvania
Capital Harrisburg
40.27605 N, 076.88450 W
Constitution Ratified 1968
Statehood December 12, 1787
2nd state
Number of Counties 67 Counties in Pennsylvania
Largest County
(by population)
Philadelphia County
135 sq. mi.

Pennsylvania History Firsts & State Facts

  • 1731 - The nation's first circulating library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, was founded.
  • 1736 - The first volunteer fire department, the Union Fire Company, was founded in Philadelphia in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin.
  •  Pennsylvania Hospital1751 - Pennsylvania Hospital is a private, non-profit, 534-bed teaching hospital located in Center City, Philadelphia, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Health System ("Penn Medicine"). Founded on May 11, 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital was the first hospital in the United States. It is also home to the first surgical amphitheatre] and first medical library in America.
  • Join or Die Cartoon1754 - "JOIN, or DIE." is a political cartoon, attributed to Benjamin Franklin and first published in his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. The original publication by the Gazette is the earliest known pictorial representation of colonial union produced by a British colonist in America.

    The colonies, from tail to head (south to north), are: South Carolina, North Carolina,Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England (New England refered to the colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, andNew Hampshire). The caption reads, "JOIN, or DIE."
  • 1775 - In Philadelphia ,Johann Behrent built the first piano in America calling it under the name "Piano Forte."
  • 1776 - The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia.
  • 1778 - In June 1778, a 700 wagon caravan escorted the Liberty Bell on its return to Philadelphia from Allentown along Towamencin's Allentown Road. Nine months earlier, when British troops threatened to capture the city, the bell had been whisked into hiding via the same route.
  • 1784 - The first daily newspaper was published in Philadelphia on Sept. 21, 1784.
  • 1790 - Find out more about the Pennsylvania State Great Seal
  • 1800 - Pennsylvania's outstanding industrial achievements were in iron and steel. Its production of iron was notable even in colonial times, and the charcoal furnaces of the state spread into the Juniata and western regions during the mid-1800s.
  • 1816 - Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell belong today to the city of Philadelphia, which purchased the property for $70,000 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1816.
  • 1833 - Nazareth is the home of Martin guitars. Finger picking good since 1833.
  • 1859 - Drake Well Museum in Titusville is on the site where Edwin L. Drake drilled the world's first oil well in 1859 and launched the modern petroleum industry.
  • 1869 - A Philadelphia garment worker, Uriah S. Stephens, helped found one of the first major national labor unions, the Knights of Labor.
  • 1874 - Philadelphia saw the first Zoological garden in July 1874. Philadelphia Zoo became the first zoo to open in the United States on July 1, 1874. The charter establishing the Zoological Society of Philadelphia was approved and signed on March 21, 1859. Due to the Civil War, it was another 15 years before America's first zoo was ready to open. In the mid-1850's, a prominent Philadelphia physician, Dr. William Camac - the Zoo's founding father-became involved and led the way to making America's first zoo a reality.
  • 1876 - Stewartstown hired its first police officer in 1876. He was also the town lamp lighter.
  • 1882 - When completed in 1882, the Kinzua Railroad Bridge near Mount Jewett was acclaimed "the highest and longest railroad viaduct in the entire world." Rising 301 feet from the valley floor at its center, with a total length of 2100 feet.
  • 1885 - "Doctor, if you don't give me something to help me breathe, I'm going to stop!" came the urgent cry of 16-year old Frederick Gable of Loganville. Vowing not to lose another patient to pneumonia, Dr. George Holtzapple successfully created the first application of oxygen, thus saving his patient's life and winning international fame through his discovery. The year was 1885.
  • 1905 - The first all-motion-picture theater in the world was opened on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh on June 19, 1905, by John P. Harris and Harry Davis
  • 1907 - Find out more about the Pennsylvania State Flag
  • 1909 - The first baseball stadium was built in Pittsburgh.
  • 1913 - In 1913 the first automobile service station opened in Pittsburgh.
  • 1920 - Pittsburgh, which started daily schedule broadcasting on November 2, 1920.
  • 1924 - The Liberty Tunnel in Pittsburgh opened . At that time the 5,700 foot facility was the longest artificially ventilated automobile tunnel in the world.
  • 1931 -
  • 1932 -
    • Bob Hoffman of York is hailed the world round as the Father of Weightlifting. Hoffman started York Barbell Corp. in 1932 and preached the gospel of physical fitness throughout his life as an US Olympic coach, businessman and philanthropist.
    • George G. Blaisdell founded Zippo Manufacturing of Bradford in late 1932. He started with a simple idea: create a product that answers a real need, design it to work, and guarantee it to last.
  • 1933 - The Mountain laurel, (Kalmia latifolia,) was designated as the Pennsylvania State Flower
  • 1940 - Pennsylvania opened the first high-speed, multi-lane highway in the country, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which set the pattern for modern super-highways throughout the nation.
  • 1946 -
    • Philadelphia became home to the first computer.
    • Little League Baseball's first World Series was held in Williamsport.
  • 1958 - The State College Area High School was the first school in the country to teach drivers education.
  • 1959 - The Whitetail deer, (Odocoileus virginanus,) was selected as Pennsylvania State Animal
  • 1965 - The Great dane, (Canis familiaris,) is designated as the Pennsylvania State Dog
  • 1970 - The Brook trout, (Salvelinius fontinalis,) was designated as the Pennsylvania State Fish
  • 1974 - The Firefly, (Photuris pennsylvanica De Geer,) was chosen as the Pennsylvania State Insect
  • 1982 -
  • 1987 -
  • 1988 -
  • 1990 - "Pennsylvania," by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner is selected as the Pennsylvania State Song
  • 1993 - The first coal festival was held 201 years after the establishment of "Peter's Camp" on Memorial weekend 1993 in Blossburg.
  • 1999 -
  • 2004 - On March 16, Governor Rendell announced Pennsylvania's new tourism slogan: "The State of Independence." Selected from an initial field of 21,774 in the "Penn a Phrase for Pennsylvania" contest, the winning entry earned Philadelphia native Tristan Mabry a weeklong Pennsylvania getaway.

More Pennsylvania History Firsts & State Facts

  • Pennsylvania is the first state of the fifty United States to list their web site URL on a license plate.
  • Each February national attention is focused on Punxsutawney, where according to lore the emergence of a groundhog from its burrow predicts the number of weeks remaining of winter.
  • Hershey is considered the Chocolate Capital of the United States.
  • The first commercial broadcast station in the world was KDKA. .
  • Pennsylvania is the first state of the fifty United States to list their web site URL on a license plate.
  • The Warner brothers began their careers in western Pennsylvania.
  • Pennsylvania's 51,000 farms are the backbone of the state's economy. Pennsylvania is an important food distribution center, supplying farm and food products to markets from New England to the Mississippi River.
  • The earliest successful experiment of Thomas A. Edison with electric lighting was made in Sunbury.
  • In Hazleton, there is a law on the books that prohibits a person from sipping a carbonated drink while lecturing students in a school auditorium.
  • Philadelphia is the site of the first presidential mansion.
  • Betsy Ross made the first American flag in Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia is home to the cheesesteak sandwich, water ice, soft pretzels, and TastyKakes.
  • The Rockville Bridge in Harrisburg is the longest stone arch bridge in the world.
  • Kennett Square is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World.
  • The town of Franklin became a center for worldwide oil production following Colonel Edwin Drake's discovery of oil in nearby Titusville.
  • KDKA radio in Pittsburgh produced the first commercial radio broadcast.
  • Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell.
  • Each year on Christmas day the "Crossing of the Delaware" is reenacted at Washington Crossing.
  • Pennsylvania is the only original colony not bordered by the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Indiana County is the Christmas Tree capital of the world.
  • Actor Jimmy Stewart was born and raised in the town of Indiana. Each year at Christmas the downtown area is decorated in the theme of the film "It's a Wonderful Life".
  • Pittsburgh is famous for manufacturing steel. Its professional football team is named the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Fairmount Park in Philadelphia is the largest city park with over 8,000 acres.
  • Pittsburgh has over 300 sets of city maintained steps. If they were stacked on top of each other, they would reach over 26,000 feet high. They would measure higher than a lot of the Himalayan Mountains.
  • Philadelphia was once the United States capital city.
  • Originally Bellefonte, a town now with a population of 5,000, was once considered to be Pennsylvania's capital. But Harrisburg was chosen because of the easy navigation on the Susquehanna River.
  • The oldest stone railroad bridge in use in Pennsylvania is the Starrucca Viaduct that crosses PA Route 171 north of Lanesboro in Susquehanna County.
  • The Shenango River Dam near Sharpsville is a concrete gravity dam with an uncontrolled center spillway. The roadway crossing the top of the dam, over the spillway is nearly 68 feet above the streambed. The dam has a top length of 720 feet with a base width of 66 feet.
  • At the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works in Doylestown handmade tiles are still produced in a manner similar to that developed by the potter's founder and builder, Henry Chapman Mercer.
  • The Borough of Kane is known as the Black Cherry Capital of the World.
  • Antrim Township is located in South-Central Pennsylvania with its southern border being a part of the Mason-Dixon line.
  • Ringing Hill in Lower Pottsgrove Township is named after the "ringing rocks" which were known for the unique ringing sound they made when struck by a hammer.
  • During the depression canned goods served as admission to The Star Theater in Mercersburg to help supply the local soup kitchen.
  • Located in the Grape Coast region of Pennsylvania the city of North East has four thriving wineries and is home to the largest Welch's grape processing plant in the country.
  • Penn Township, officially referred to as the Township of Penn, was named after the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn.
  • Punxsutawney citizens are proud to be over shadowed by their town's most famous resident the world-renowned weather forecasting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. Punxsutawney is billed as the weather capital of the world.
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State Facts & History Firsts
State Fun Facts - History Firsts