PENNSYLVANIA was explored by the Dutch in the early 1600s, settled by the Swedes forty years later, and claimed by the British in 1664. Charles II of England, who owed a debt to the Penn family, rid himself of the potentially troublesome young William Penn, an enthusiastic advocate of religious freedom, by granting him land in the colony in 1682. Penn Jr immediately established a “holy experiment” of “brotherly love” and tolerance, naming the state after his father and setting a good example by signing a peaceful cohabitation treaty with the Native Americans. Most of the early agricultural settlers were religious refugees, Quakers like Penn himself and Mennonites from Germany and Switzerland, to be joined by Irish Catholics during the potato famines of the nineteenth century.
“The Keystone State” was crucial in the development of the United States. Politicians and thinkers like Benjamin Franklin congregated in Philadelphia – home of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – and were prominent in articulating the ideas behind the Revolution. Later, the battle in Gettysburg, in south Pennsylvania, marked a turning point in the Civil War. Pennsylvania was also vital industrially: Pittsburgh, in the west, was the world’s leading steel producer in the nineteenth century, and nearly all the nation’s anthracite coal is still mined here.
The two great urban centres of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both lively and vibrant tourist destinations, are at opposite ends of the state. The three hundred miles between them, though predominantly agricultural, are topographically diverse. There are over one hundred state parks, with green rolling countryside in the east and brooding forests in the west. Lancaster County, home to traditional Amish farmers, the Gettysburg battlefield and the Hershey chocolate factory, minutes away from state capital Harrisburg, draws visitors by the thousands. Finally, in the far northwest, Lake Erie provides the state’s only waterfront, centred upon the eponymous town.Read More
The original capital of the nation, PHILADELPHIA was laid out by William Penn Jr in 1682, on a grid system that was to provide the pattern for most American cities. Just a few blocks away from the noise and crowds of downtown, shady cobbled alleys stand lined with red-brick colonial houses, while the peace and quiet of huge Fairmount Park make it easy to forget you’re in a major metropolis. Settled by Quakers, Philadelphia prospered swiftly on the back of trade and commerce, becoming the second largest city in the British Empire by the 1750s. Economic power fuelled strong revolutionary feeling, and the city was the hub for most of the War of Independence and the US capital until 1800, while Washington DC was being built. The Declaration of Independence was written, signed, and first publicly read here in 1776, as was the US Constitution ten years later. Philadelphia was also a hotbed of new ideas in the arts and sciences, as epitomized by the scientist, philosopher, statesman, inventor and printer Benjamin Franklin.
Philadelphia, which means “City of Brotherly Love” in Greek, is in fact one of the most ethnically mixed US cities, with substantial communities of Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans and Asians living side-by-side among the large African-American population. Many of the city’s black residents are descendants of the migrants who flocked here after the Civil War when Philadelphia was seen as a bastion of tolerance and liberalism. Philly also retains its Quaker heritage, with large “meetings” or congregations of The Society of Friends. Once known as “Filthydelphia”, the city underwent a remarkable resurgence preparing for the nation’s bicentennial celebrations in 1976. Philadelphia’s strength today is its great energy in the face of economic adversity – fuelled by history, strong cultural institutions and grounded in its many staunchly traditional neighbourhoods.
The Pennsylvania Dutch
The Pennsylvania Dutch
The people now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch originated as Anabaptists in sixteenth-century Switzerland, under the leadership of Menno Simons. His unorthodox advocacy of adult baptism and literal interpretation of the Bible led to the order’s persecution; they were invited by William Penn to settle in Lancaster County in the 1720s. Today the twenty or so orders of Pennsylvania Dutch include the “plain” Old Order Amish (a strict order that originally broke away from Simons in 1693) and freer-living Mennonites, as well as the “fancy” Lutheran groups (distinguished by the colourful circular “hex” signs on their barns). Living by an unwritten set of rules called Amish Ordnung, which includes absolute pacifism, the Amish are the strictest and best-known: the men with their wide-brimmed straw hats and beards (but no “military” moustaches), the women in bonnets, plain dresses (with no fripperies like buttons) and aprons. Shunning electricity and any exposure to the corrupting influence of the outside world, the Amish power their farms with generators, and travel (at roughly 10mph) in handmade horse-drawn buggies. For all their insularity, the Amish are very friendly and helpful; resist the temptation to photograph them, however, as the making of “graven images” offends their beliefs.