Harrisburg is Pennsylvania's capital city. The population of the city itself had a population of only 48,950 at the time of the 2000 census, though its metropolitan area had a total population of 643,820, making it the fifth most populous metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. It is the county seat of Dauphin County and lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, 105 miles (169 km) west-northwest of Philadelphia.

Harrisburg has played a critical role in American history during the Westward Migration, the American Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution. During part of the nineteenth century, the building of the Pennsylvania Canal and later the Pennsylvania Railroad, allowed Harrisburg to become one of the most industrialized cities in the Northeastern United States.

The dome of the State Capitol building was inspired by the domes of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and the United States Capitol. President Theodore Roosevelt called it the "the most beautiful state Capitol in the nation," and said "It's the handsomest building I ever saw" at the dedication. In 1989, the New York Times praised it as "grand, even awesome at moments, but it is also a working building, accessible to citizens… a building that connects with the reality of daily life."

State government

Pennsylvania State symbols
  • State animal: White-tailed Deer
  • State beverage: Milk
  • State game bird: Ruffed Grouse
  • State capital: Harrisburg
  • State dog: Great Dane
  • State fish: Brook Trout
  • State flower: Mountain Laurel
  • State fossil: the trilobite Phacops rana
  • State insect: Firefly
  • State song: Pennsylvania
  • State tree: Hemlock
  • State toy: Slinky
  • State ship: United States Brig Niagara
  • State electric locomotive: Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 #4849 Locomotive
  • State steam locomotive: Pennsylvania Railroad K4s Locomotive
  • State beautification plant: Crown Vetch
  • State soil: Hazleton

Pennsylvania has had five constitutions during its statehood: 1776, 1790, 1838, 1874, and 1968. Prior to that, the province of Pennsylvania was governed for a century by a Frame of Government, of which there were four versions: 1682, 1683, 1696, and 1701.

The Executive Branch is made up of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Auditor, and State Treasurer-all elected officials.

Pennsylvania has a bicameral legislature set up by state's constitution in 1790. The original Frame of Government of William Penn had a unicameral legislature. The General Assembly includes 50 Senators and 203 Representatives. The 2006 election resulted in the Democrats regaining control of the House and the Republicans' retaining control of the Senate.

Pennsylvania is divided into 60 judicial districts, most of which (except Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties) have magisterial district judges (formerly called district justices and justices of the peace), who preside mainly over minor criminal offenses and small civil claims. Most criminal and civil cases originate in the Courts of Common Pleas, which also serve as appellate courts to the district judges and for local agency decisions. The Superior Court hears all appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas not expressly designated to the Commonwealth Court or Supreme Court. It also has original jurisdiction to review warrants for wiretap surveillance. The Commonwealth Court is limited to appeals from final orders of certain state agencies and certain designated cases from the Courts of Common Pleas. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the final appellate court. All judges in Pennsylvania are elected; the Chief Justice is determined by seniority.

Pennsylvania is represented in the US Congress by two Senators and 19 Representatives.

Regional strength

In the past decade, no political party has been clearly dominant in Pennsylvania. This, combined with Pennsylvania's rank of sixth in the country in population, has made it one of the most important swing states electorally. Democrats are strong in urban Republicans are generally dominant in the vast rural areas that make up the balance of the state. Traditionally, Republicans have also fared well in the densely populated and wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but in the 1990s and 2000s these suburbs trended Democratic.


Pennsylvania State Quarter

Pennsylvania's 2005 total gross state product (GSP) of $430.31 billion ranks the state 6th in the nation. If Pennsylvania were an independent country, its economy would rank as the 17th largest in the world, ahead of Belgium, but behind the Netherlands. Pennsylvania's per-capita GSP of $34,619 ranks 26th among the 50 states.

Philadelphia in the southeast corner and Pittsburgh in the southwest corner are urban manufacturing centers, with the "t-shaped" remainder of the state being much more rural; this dichotomy affects state politics as well as the state economy.

Philadelphia is home to ten Fortune 500 companies, with more located in suburbs like King of Prussia. It's a leader in the financial and insurance industry. 5

Pittsburgh is home to six Fortune 500 companies, including U.S. Steel, PPG Industries, H.J. Heinz, and Alcoa. In all, Pennsylvania is home to 49 Fortune 500 companies.


Bethlehem Steel's closed manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This site is slated to become the site of a new multi-million dollar casino

Pennsylvania's factories and workshops manufacture 16.1 percent of the Gross State Product (GSP); only ten states are more industrialized. Metal products, chemicals, transportation equipment, machinery, glass and plastic products are the major industrial outputs. While Educational Services is only 1.8 percent of the state's GSP, that's twice the national average; only Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont outrank Pennsylvania. Although Pennsylvania is known as a coal state, mining only amounts to 0.6 percent of the state's economy, compared to 1.3 percent for the country as a whole.

Once the leading producer of steel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Pennsylvania's steel industry has declined significantly. Pennsylvania remains an important source of coal, petroleum and natural gas.

A small subsector of manufacturing that flourishes in Pennsylvania is specialty foods production. According to Pennsylvania Snacks: A Guide to Food Factory Tours, author Sharon Hernes Silverman calls Pennsylvania the "snack food capital of the world." It leads all other states in the manufacture of pretzels and potato chips. The US chocolate industry is centered in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with Mars and Wilbur Chocolate Company nearby. Other notable companies include Just Born in Bethlehem, PA, makers of Hot Tamales, Mike and Ikes, and the Easter favorite marshmallow Peeps, Benzel's Pretzels and Boyer Candies of Altoona, PA, which is well known for its Mallow Cups. Auntie Anne's Pretzels originated in Gap, but their corporate headquarters is now located in Lancaster, PA.


Farming near Klingerstown, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is an important source of food products. It ranks 19th overall in agricultural production, but first in mushrooms, third in Christmas trees and laying chickens, fourth in nursery and sod, milk, corn for silage, and horse production.

Only about 9,600 of the state's 58,000 farmers have sales of $100,000 or more, and with production expenses equaling 84.9 percent of sales, most have a net farming income below the $19,806 that marks poverty for a family of four, and that does not reflect the 12.4 percent self-employment tax as well. The farming population is aging; the average farmer is 53. Many farms in the southeastern part of the state have been sold to housing developers in the past years. This is largely due to rising taxes and land prices, reflecting high demand for land in the nation's fifth largest metropolitan area. Bucks and Montgomery counties were the first to suburbanize, but this trend is now extending to Chester, Lancaster, Berks, and Lehigh counties.

Tourism and recreation

The state government launched an extensive tourism campaign in 2003 under the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. An extensive website VisitPA, has been established to promote visits to the state.

Pennsylvania draws 2.1 percent of the Gross State Product from accommodation and food services. In contrast, only Connecticut, Delaware, and Iowa have lower numbers. Philadelphia draws tourists to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Franklin Institute, and "Rocky Steps" of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while the Poconos attract honeymooners, golfers and fishermen. The Delaware Water Gap and Allegheny National Forest appeal to boaters, hikers, and nature lovers. Fourteen slots casinos, the majority of which are either in the process of being awarded licenses from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board or are under construction, are expected to make up a good portion of tourism in the Commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Dutch region in south-central Pennsylvania is a favorite for sightseers. The Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Old Order Amish, the Old Order Mennonites and at least 35 other sects, are common in the rural areas around the cities of Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg, with smaller numbers extending northeast to the Lehigh Valley and up the Susquehanna River valley.

Pennsylvania is home to the nation's first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo. The state boasts some of the finest museums in the country. One of the unique museums is the Houdini Museum, the only one in the world devoted to the legendary magician. It is also home to the National Aviary, located in Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania offers a number of notable, and historically significant, amusement parks, including Dutch Wonderland, Idlewild Park, and Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh.

Hunting is popular in the state. There are nearly 1 million licensed hunters. Whitetail deer, cottontail rabbits, squirrel, turkey, and grouse are common game species. Sport hunting in Pennsylvania is a massive boost for the state economy. A report from The Center for Rural Pennsylvania (a legislative agency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly) reported that hunting, fishing, and trapping generated a total of $9.6 billion statewide.


In 1837, a Departement of Schools was created; in 1873, the name was changed to Department of Public Instruction. In 1969, a state Department of Education was formed, with a state Secretary of Education as its head. School Districts in Pennsylvania are subdivided into 29 Intermediate units.

Pennsylvania re-organized its higher education into the Pennsylvania State University system, with the State College campus as the flagship. There are 130 colleges and universities and 323 private legally authorized to grant degrees. These provide a wide array of choices with options ranging from two-year specialized technical colleges, private two-year colleges, community colleges and seminaries to doctoral and professional degree-granting institutions. 6 The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia includes the famous Wharton School of Business, founded on the principles of Benjamin Franklin, is a private university, as is Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.


Pennsylvania Population Distribution

The center of population of Pennsylvania is located in Perry County, in the borough of Duncannon.

As of 2006, Pennsylvania had an estimated population of 12,440,621, which is an increase of 35,273 from the previous year, and an increase of 159,567 since the year 2000. Five percent of the population had come from other countries. Foreign-born Pennsylvanians are largely from Asia (36.0 percent), Europe (35.9 percent), Latin America (30.6 percent), 5 percent coming from Africa, 3.1 percent coming from North America, and 0.4 percent coming from Oceania.

The five largest ancestry groups self-reported in Pennsylvania are: German (27.66 percent), Irish (17.66 percent), Italian (12.82 percent), English (8.89 percent) and Polish (7.23 percent).


The skyline of Pittsburgh, the 20th-largest metropolitan area in the United States.

Of all the colonies, only in Rhode Island was religious freedom so secure as in Pennsylvania - and one result was an incredible religious diversity that continues to this day.

The new sovereign also enacted several wise and wholesome laws for his colony, which have remained invariably the same to this day. The chief is, to ill-treat no person on account of religion, and to consider as brethren all those who believe in one God. - Voltaire, speaking of William Penn

Pennsylvania is noted for having the highest concentration of an Amish population in the United States. Although Pennsylvania owes its existence to Quakers and many of the older institutions of the state are rooted in the teachings of the Religious Society of Friends (as they are officially known), practicing Quakers are a small minority today.

Important cities and municipalities

Municipalities in Pennsylvania are incorporated as cities, boroughs, or townships.

The ten most populous cities in Pennsylvania are, in order: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Altoona.

The skyline of Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania and the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the United States.


  1. ↑ Pennsylvania - Languages. Advameg, Inc… Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  2. ↑ Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011 (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division (December 2011). Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Elevations and Distances in the United States. United States Geological Survey (2001). Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  4. ↑ Elevation adjusted to North American Vertical Datum of 1988.
  5. ↑ Andy Gotlieb, Tragedy of 9/11 pummels insurance industry. January 4, 2002. American City Business Journals. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  6. Pennsylvania Department of Education. Colleges and universities Retrieved December 1, 2007.


  • Heinrichs, Ann. 2000. Pennsylvania. (America the beautiful) New York: Children's Press. ISBN 0516206923
  • Peters, Stephen. 2000. Pennsylvania. (Celebrate the states) New York: Benchmark Books. ISBN 0761406441
  • Somervill, Barbara A. 2003. Pennsylvania. (From sea to shining sea) New York: Children's Press. ISBN 0516223887
  • Components of Population Change for the United States. Census.Gov. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  • Pennsylvania Fact Sheet. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  • American Community Service 2003 Multi-Year Profile Pennsylvania. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  • State Membership Report. Association of Religion Data Archives. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  • Gross State Product by Selected Major NAICS Sectors as a Percent of State GSP Total in 2005. Northeast Midwest Institute. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  • Poverty Thresholds of 2005. Census.Gov. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  • Population and Population Centers by State in 2000. Census.Gov. Retrieved November 21, 2007.

Coordinates: 41° N 77.5° W