Facts | Official Symbols | State Coat-of-Arms | State Firsts | State Flag | State Song

Pennsylvania Facts & Information


*Pennsylvania was settled in 1643.

*Philadelphia was the state capital during the Revolutionary War.

*York was the first capital of the United States.

*Pennsylvania means Penn's Woods.

*Nickname:  Keystone State.

*Motto:  Virtue, Liberty and Independence.

*Area:  44,888 square miles; 32nd largest state in the nation.

*State Representatives:  203

*State Senators:  50

*U.S. Representatives:  21

*U.S. Senators:  2

*Adopted original state constitution:  28 September 1776

*Adopted revised state constitution:  1790


*Capital:  Harrisburg.

*Counties: 67.

*Length:  180 miles

*Width:  310 miles

*Lakes:  256 natural and 2,324 manmade.

*State Parks: 114

*State Forests:  20


*Farms:  55,535

*Farmland: 9,000,000 acres

*Leading farm products:  dairy products; mushrooms; apples; tobacco; grapes; peaches and cut flowers.

*Adopted current state constitution:  1968.

Official Pennsylvania Symbols

State Animal:  Whitetail Deer
By Act of Assembly, #416, approved 2 October, 1959.

State Bird:  Ruffed Grouse/Partridge
By an Act of the General Assembly, approved on 22 June, 1931, chosen as the State game bird.  The Pennsylvania Ruffed Grouse, aka Partridge, is distinguished by its plump body, feathered legs and mottled reddish-brown color.

State Coat of Arms:  Click the link.

State Dog:  Great Dane
By an Act of the General Assembly, approved on 15 August, 1965.

State Fish:  Brook Trout
Adopted as such on 9 March, 1970.

State Flag:
The State flag displays in its colors the same blue as the blue field in the flag of the United States and in the center is the State Coat of Arms, bearing the State motto and the symbol of the Great Seal of the Commonwealth.  The State flag of Pennsylvania is described in the Act approved 13 June, 1907, P.L. 560.

State Flower:  Mountain Laurel
By an Act of the General Assembly approved on 5 May, 1933.  

State Insect:  Firefly/Lightning Bug
Adopted as such on 10 April, 1974.

State Seal:  
The Seal of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was designed and approved in 1776.  It wasn't adopted legally until 1791.  In 1809, a new die of the Great Seal was cut and its description was officially recorded by an Act of the General Assembly.  The seal currently used was not adopted until 1893.  This seal must be affixed directly on such documents as:  patents, proclamations, commissions and papers of State, before they can become official documents. 

State Tree:  Hemlock
By an Act of the General Assembly, approved on 22 June, 1931.

Official Beautification & Conservation Plant:  Penngift Crownfetch
As enacted by the General Assembly on 17 June, 1982.

State Beverage:  Milk
Enacted by the General Assembly on 29 April, 1982.

State Fossil:  Phacops rana (small water animal)
Enacted by the General Assembly on 5 December, 1988.

Flagship of Pennsylvania:  U.S. Brig, "Niagara"
Enacted by the General Assembly on 26 May, 1988.  
The Flaghsip Niagara (now restored) while under Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, was decisive in the Battle of Lake Erie, defeating a British squadron in September, 1813.

State Coat-of-Arms

The Pennsylvania Coat of Arms was rarely used until after the Declaration of Independence when it appeared on the State paper money that was issued in 1777.  The first coat of arms was almost the same as the State Seal without the encircling inscription.  In 1778, Caleb Lownes, of Philadelphia, prepared a coat of arms virtually identical to the one used today.  In consisted of a shield; an American Bald Eagle for the crest; two harnessed black horses as supporters; and the State's motto, "Virtue, Liberty & Independence", printed along the bottom.  An olive branch and cornstalk were crossed below the shield.  Behind each horse was a stalk of corn, which were later omitted.  The shield was emblazed with:  a black ship with white sails resting upon a blue sea, to symbolize the very extensive commerce sent forth from the State to every part of the world; a deep red plough, signifying the natural mineral and plant resources of the Commonwealth and 3 golden sheaves of wheat, to symbolize not only the great agricultural harvests of the State, but also her vast wealth in the field of human thought and action.

Numerous modifications were made to the coat of arms between 1778 and 1873; mainly the position and color of the horses.  In 1874, the General Assembly approved a commission to establish an official Coat of Arms for the Commonwealth.  After a one-year study, the commission reported that it had adopted, almost unchanged, the coat of arms that was designed originally by Caleb Lownes in 1778.  This design remains in use today.  

Pennsylvania "Firsts"

Firsts in the Nation:

* First nation's capital

* First television and radio broadcasts

* First hospital, library, zoo and institution of art

* First newspaper and magazine

* First CATV system was founded in PA

* First production of rayon

* First commerical productions of zinc & aluminum

* First commercial use of push-button telephones

* First tunnel for general traffic & first RR tunnel

* First patent reissue

* First print patent

*First successful oil well & commercial oil refinery

* First full-scale nuclear power plant

* First public use of polio vaccine

* First druggist

* First locomotive for railroad use

* First sleeping car for railroad

* First stone, cast-iron, iron-wire suspension and concrete arch highway bridges

* First high-speed, multi-lane highway, PA Turnpike

* First Mint of the U.S.

* First commercial pretzel bakery

* First professional football game

* The Pittsburgh Pirates were the 1st National League team to play in a World Series

* The Pittsburgh Steelers were the 1st professional football team to win 4 Super Bowls

* First Bible translated to English in America

* First graduate school for women

* First nursing school

(Note:  These are just some of the Firsts, it is not a complete listing)

Firsts Among States:

* Pretzel production

* Sausage production

* Scrapple production

* Potato chip production

* Mushroom production

* Covered bridges

* rural population

(Note:  This is not a complete listing, only a partial listing)

First Manufacturer of:

* printer's ink

* rootbeer

* jeans

* straw paper

* lager beer

* mustard

* platinum medal

(Note:  This is not a complete listing, only a partial listing)

Inventions, Patents, & Discoveries by Pennsylvanians:

* Conestoga Wagon

* Electronic computer

* bifocals

* cable car

* rotary washing machine

* horsepowered mower

* snap-tops for cans

* typewriter ribbon

* printing press in America

* pencil with attached eraser

* Daylight Savings Time

* polio vaccine

* Ferris wheel

* Franklin stove

* "Big Mac"

(Note:  The above is only a partial listing.)

Pennsylvania State Flag

The official flag of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was authorized by an Act of the PA General Assembly on 13 June 1907. It was required that the background of PA's flag be the same color blue as is used in the flag of the United States; that the Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth be in the center of said flag and its edges be trimmed with a fringe of knotted yellow silk.

There is no record or evidence of use of any particular flag by colonial Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin did design a series of military flags in 1747.  The emblems from his flags were later used by the PA military companies during the American Revolution.  In 1799, the General Assembly authorized a flag with a coat of arms that was to be embroidered on a blue field.

Display of the State Flag:

When the flag of PA is flown on the same flagpole with the American flag, the latter must be at the top.  When the flags are flown from adjacent poles, the flag of PA should be hoisted after the American flag and lowered first.  The American flag is always placed in the position of honor--to its own right.  When displayed on a podium, the PA flag should be placed to the left of the staging area and the American flag is to be placed to the right.  The Governor decides when the State flag should be lowered to half-mast; usually when a present or former state official expires.

The use of the State flag, for display on public buildings of the Commonwealth, was authorized by legislation enacted in 1913 by the General Assembly.

State Song


Verse 1

 Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania.
    Mighty is your name.
Steeper in glory and tradition.
    Object of acclaim.
Where brave men fought the foe of freedom.
    Tyranny decried.
Till the bell of independence
    filled our countryside.


Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania
    May your future be,
filled with honor everlasting
    as your history.

Verse 2

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania.
    Blessed by God's own hand.
Birthplace of a mighty nation.
    Keystone of the land.
Where first our country's flag unfolded.
    Freedom to proclaim.
May the voices of tomorrow,
    glorify your name.

Chorus (as above)

The official song of the state was adopted by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Robert P. Casey on 29 November, 1990.  The song was written and composed by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner.  It is known as the official song for all public purposes.

Source:  The above information is from various pamphlets that were distributed by the office of Senator Robert J. Thompson, 19th District (West Chester, PA).

Copyright 2008; Cathy Wentz & Contributors
All Rights Reserved.