Interesting Facts about Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania has been a central part of American history with all of the historical happenings in Philadelphia and even the spot of the first major oil boom.

Nestling just 40 miles outside Philadelphia is Kennet Square, renowned as the Mushroom Capital of the World. Such a title isn’t a mere ploy to attract tourists, as the area produces more than half of America’s mushrooms.

Kennet Square’s farming tradition started around 1885 when local residents decided to grow these fungi in spaces available under their flowerbeds. These early mushroom growers then hired more people to help with farming. Later on, the business boomed, causing more farms to sprout in the area. 

Various types of mushrooms are grown by farms, including oyster, white button, portobello, and shiitake mushrooms, which are harvested year-round. Today, mushroom farming continues to drive millions of dollars in revenue for the charming county.

On September 21, 1784, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser, the first daily newspaper of the nation, began its publication. While other independent newspapers preceded the said newspaper, they were published on a weekly or monthly basis.

For instance, The New England Courant, the nation’s first daily newspaper, was published more than six decades earlier in 1721. At the onset of the Revolutionary War in 1775, 37 independent newspapers operated and played an integral role in the war efforts by keeping the colonists informed, documenting the war, and supporting community life.

Philadelphia became the capital from 1790 to 1800, a relatively short but crucial period in the nation’s history. Built in 1767, “The President’s House,” situated on the south side of Market Street, became the home of America’s first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, and served as the country’s first executive mansion. 

Marysville, Pennsylvania’s Rockville Bridge is the longest stone arch bridge in the world. Measuring 70 feet long, works started in 1900 and was finished two years later under the helm of William Henry Brown, who was also spearheaded the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Designed to resemble the Roman Empire’s aqueducts, the bridge took 800 workers and 220,000 tons of stone and cost nearly $1,000,000 to build. Rockville Bridge replaced an iron bridge erected in 1877 and the prior wooden bridge built in 1850. Today, the bridge continues to serve its purpose over a century after its completion.

Philadelphia Zoo, the first zoo in the United States, opened on July 1, 1874. While the charter for the zoo was signed fifteen years earlier, the Civil War delayed the opening. Nevertheless, the opening of its gates in 1874 was historic, with the zoo becoming the nation’s pioneer in animal care and conservation.

Some of the zoo’s achievements include establishing the first zoo laboratory, being responsible for the first successful births of chimpanzees and orangutans in the U.S., developing the first children’s zoo, and creating the first specially-formulated foods and diet for animals kept in zoos.

Home to over 1,700 rare and endangered wildlife, Philadelphia Zoo remains an industry leader, reaching greater heights, introducing innovations, elevating education, and setting even higher standards for wildlife care and guest experiences.

american flag

On May 29, 1777, the Pennsylvania State Navy Board paid Elizabeth “Betsy” Ross a large amount of money to create flags. Congress then approved the “Stars and Stripes” as United States’ official national flag on June 14, 1777.

For the next 50 years, Betsy Ross continued to make flags, with the majority of them under contracts with the federal government. One of which was in 1811, when she made more than 50 garrison flags for the Schuylkill Arsenal.

In 1909, Forbes Field, America’s first baseball stadium, was constructed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Costing $1 million, it was the nation’s first ballpark that was built using entirely steel and poured concrete. Construction of other similar stadiums in the country soon followed suit, such as those in Cleveland, Boston, New York, and Chicago.

Forbes Field became the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home from 1909 until 1970, when the Pirates moved to the newly-opened Three Rivers Stadium. The demolition of Forbes Field began on July 28, 1971, after two fires heavily damaged its structure and to give way to the expansion of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus.

Indiana County has long been renowned as the “World’s Christmas Tree Capital.” Christmas tree farming started in the area in 1918, thanks to being well-suited for growing different evergreen tree species that are popular during the Christmas season. In 1956, around 700,000 evergreen trees were cut, which gave the county the title. Today, Indiana County continues the tradition, offering families wide varieties and sizes of Christmas trees for the holiday season.

The Drake Well is a 69.5-foot -deep oil well in Cherrytree Township.  The success of this well lead to the first oil boom in the United States. The well is the centerpiece of the Drake Well Museum.

Works to create the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) started on June 5, 1943, at the University of Pennsylvania. While the machine was only estimated to cost around $150,000 to build, the final cost after its completion in 1945 was $400,000. On February 14, 1946, ENIAC was unveiled and computed 5,000 operations per second – an impressive feat that boasted 1,000 more speed than its predecessors.

While other towns in Pennsylvania were founded on coal or steel, Hershey, PA, was founded on sweet, delicious chocolate. Candy magnate and entrepreneur Milton Snavely Hershey established the community as the home of “The Hershey Company” and the company’s workers and families.

The community features modern amenities, such as a free school for the employee’s children, a free vocational school for disadvantaged students, a community center, a public trolley system, an amusement park, a zoo, golf courses, a sports area, and a hotel.

Dubbed the Chocolate Capital of the United States, Hershey, PA, attracts around 2.2 million visitors a year.

Hailing from London, Berent came to Philadelphia in 1770 and immediately began making musical instruments and introduced them to the “New World.” In 1775, he made the first piano in Philadelphia and called it “Piano Forte,” which closely followed the techniques used by Americus Backers, a London-based instrument builder.

Liberty Bell

Philadelphia is home to the iconic insignia of American independence, the Liberty Bell. Tradition says it chimed from the tower of Independence Hall on July 8, 1776, and signaled the nation’s freedom from Great Britain. Originally known as the State House Bell before getting its present name in the late 1830s, it also rang to mark other significant events, such as the Constitution’s signing and the deaths of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and other notable figures.

For the longest time, license plates on automobiles were utilized for two important purposes: for identifying vehicles and for determining if the registration is current or expired. In 1999, Pennsylvania break the status quo by adding its website’s URL to the license plate. That brought a new purpose for license plates, allowing them to serve as a rolling billboard for Pennsylvania.

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