15 Things You Might Not Know About Pennsylvania
1. William Penn, who established Pennsylvania after receiving a land grant from England's King Charles II in 1681, advertised his new colony as a haven for settlers seeking freedom from religious persecution. Penn pitched Pennsylvania as a “Holy Experiment”—a place of refuge for Quakers like himself, but also a place where other faiths were welcome. In addition to freedom of religion, Penn also experimented with universal education, a widened franchise (all men, not just property owners, were allowed to vote), an enlightened penal code, and no military.
2. While Pennsylvania was founded by a famous Quaker, the state is also well-known for being home to another religious group: the Amish. There is a computer marketed to Amish buyers, who traditionally eschew all modern technology, that has no Internet, no video, and no music. It only lets you do basic word processing, spreadsheets, and accounting.
3. In the 1864, Pennsylvania religious community leader Peter Armstrong deeded 600 acres of land, known as the Celestia Religious Commune, to “Almighty God.” Unfortunately for Armstrong and the people of Celestia, who considered themselves "wilderness exiles," the land was seized by the state in 1876 because God neglected to pay property taxes. Armstrong's son, A.T. Armstrong, bought the land, but Celestia as Armstrong envisioned it was done for.
4. A man terrorized a Pennsylvania supermarket for three years by stealthily crumbling baked goods in their packaging. In 2000, after more than $8,000 worth of pastries had been mysteriously mutilated, the Davis Cookie Co. of Rimersburg, Pennsylvania, finally installed a hidden camera and caught the cookie-crumbler red-handed.
5. Some real, colorfully named communities in Pennsylvania include Cheesetown, Poorman Side, Bird-in-Hand, and Big Beaver. Raunchier-sounding towns include Blue Ball, Jugtown, Virginville, Climax, and Intercourse.
6. Pennsylvania is misspelled on the Liberty Bell—it reads "Pensylvania." This is because the bell was manufactured before founders agreed on a common spelling for the state's name.
7. Punxsutawney Phil's winter prognostications are only accurate about 40% of the time.
8. The first-ever high school driver’s ed class in the U.S. took place in 1935 in State College, Pennsylvania. While driving courses were common prior to this in the United Kingdom, it took Penn State professor Amos Neyhart to introduce driving instruction to American teens.
9. There is a place in Pennsylvania called Gravity Hill where gravity seems to have gone haywire. Water runs the wrong way and cars roll “uphill.” Experts believe the phenomenon is just an optical illusion, where the landscape tricks the eye into perceiving an incline where there is actually a decline.
10. A town in Pennsylvania has been on fire for over 50 years. In 1962, a mine fire started beneath the coal-mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, and it’s been burning ever since. Until recent years, the only visible signs of the underground fire were cracks in the ground where smoke and steam escaped. Even though their town has been burning for 50 years, residents of Centralia refuse to leave. When the state of Pennsylvania became concerned about Centralia's safety and claimed properties under eminent domain, residents protested. Ultimately, the government allowed them to remain. As of 2013, 7 people still lived there, making Centralia the least populated municipality in Pennsylvania.
11. America’s first gas station was opened in Pittsburgh in 1913.
12. The world record for longest name ever used is held by a typesetter from Philadelphia. According to the 1978 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records: "The longest name used by anyone was Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, Senior, who was born at Bergedorf, near Hamburg, Germany, on 29 Feb. 1904. On printed forms he used only his eighth and second Christian names and the first 35 letters of his surname. The full version of the name of 590 letters appeared in the 12th edition of the Guinness Book of Records."
13. If you need some large-scale home improvements, come to Pennsylvania. The state is home to the world’s largest paint can (in Shippensburg) and the world’s largest clothespin (in Philadelphia).
14. Actor Jimmy Stewart was born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania. To pay homage to the star, each year at Christmas, the city's downtown is decorated in the theme of his classic hit, It's a Wonderful Life.
15. Pennsylvanians also celebrate Christmas each year by reenacting "Washington Crossing the Delaware," Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's famous 1851 painting, at Washington Crossing near Philadelphia.