State: Pennsylvania – PA

Published on September 21st, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography


The state abbreviation for Pennsylvania is PA. It is officially known as a Commonwealth and is located in the North and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States and in the Great Lakes region as well. Today we’ll delve into a wealth of information about this, one of the 50 U.S. States.

We’ll cover the geography, climate, history, and state symbols in detail, but first we’ll show you some key information about this place:

  • State abbreviation: PA
  • Capital: Harrisburg
  • Largest City: Philadelphia
  • Nickname(s): Keystone State, Quaker State
  • Motto: Virtue, Liberty, and Independence
  • Total area: 46,055 square miles (ranked 33rd)
  • Population: 12,787,209 (ranked 6th)
  • Highest point: Mount Davis (3,213 feet)
  • Admitted to the Union: December 12, 1787 (2nd state)
  • Time zone: Eastern UTC -5/-4 
  • Official website: pa.gov
  • State Flag
  • State bird: Ruffed Grouse
  • Dog: Great Dane
  • Fish: Brook Trout
  • Flower: Mountain Laurel
  • Insect: Firefly
  • Mammal: White-tailed deer
  • Tree: Eastern Hemlock

map of Pennsylvania in the United States

PA State Symbols and Overview

Officially, the full name of this state is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Appalachian Mountains run through the middle of the state. It is bordered by Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and Ontario to the northwest, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east.

The most populated cities in the state are the following:

  • Philadelphia (1,560,297)
  • Pittsburgh (305,801)
  • Allentown (118,577)
  • Erie (100,671)
  • Reading (89,893)

PA is one of the 13 original colonies of the United States. It was founded in 1681 after the land was granted to William Penn who was the son of the state’s namesake. It was the second state to ratify the United States Constitution in 1787. Independence Hall, the site where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted, is located here.

During the Civil War, the infamous Battle of Gettysburg was fought in this state as well. Looking at the state flag, we see that it bears the state’s coat of arms on a blue field. It was originally created in 1799 and was written into law in 1907.

The coat of arms shows a shield with a bald eagle on top and horses flanking each side. The shield has the symbols of the state’s best strengths:

  • A ship carrying goods across the ocean, meant to symbolize trade
  • A clay-red plough for farming, meant to symbolize the rich natural resources.
  • Three sheaves of wheat, meant to symbolize the fields
  • An olive branch, symbolizing peace and prosperity.

The state’s motto, “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence” is written across the bottom. Finally, the bald eagle perched atop the shield is meant to symbolize the state’s loyalty to the Union.

map of Pennsylvania

Climate and Geographical Features

The state has a large range of topography, which leads to a number of different climates. Winters tend to be cold, and summers are humid overall. There are two major zones, the first of which covers most of the state and is classified as a humid continental climate.

The southeast corner including the Philadelphia region, showcase a humid subtropical climate. Closer to the mountains at the center of the state, the temperatures get colder and the number of cloudy days increases.

Areas in the west near Lake Erie can experience 100 inches or more of snowfall each year. Tornadoes are common, and some years there have been as many as 30 recorded.

The state is 170 miles from north to south, and 283 miles from east to west. The total area is 46,055 square miles, 749 of which are taken up by Lake Erie.

The state’s nickname “The Keystone State” comes from the geographical nature that creates a bridge between the Northeastern and Southeastern states, in addition to one from the Atlantic seaboard to the Midwest. Major rivers here are the following:

  • Delaware River
  • Susquehanna River
  • Monogahela River
  • Allegheny River
  • Ohio River

This is one of thirteen states that share a border with Canada. The state is bisected diagonally by the Appalachian Mountains from southwest to northeast. In 1859, Edwin L. Drake drilled the first oil well in the United States.

During the last Ice Age, most of the state was covered by the southern border of the Laurentide ice sheet. There were glaciers that moved into central Pennsylvania, but the ice didn’t cover the mountains.

Pennsylvania State History

The history of this place began in 1681 when William Penn was given a royal charters from King Charles II of England. Prior to being settled by Europeans, the area was home to the Lenape, Susquehannock, Iroquois, Erie, Shawnee, and other tribes of Native Americans.

Many of these tribes were decimated by diseases like smallpox that came long before any colonists. The area was first settled by the Swedish and Dutch in the 17th century, but England took control in 1667.

In 1681, William Penn established a colony here centered around religious tolerance. The main city, Philadelphia, was settled by Quakers in the 18th century.

The founding fathers of the United States met in Philadelphia in 1774 for the First Continental Congress. Twelve colonies sent representatives to be present for this. The Second Continental Congress met in 1775 and drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

When the city was taken by the British, the congress moved through several other cities until John Dickinson drafted the Articles of Confederation, which turned the 13 colonies into a new nation. This was replaced by the Constitution later and Philadelphia was once again the location of this historical moment.

Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 12, 1787. This was five days after Delaware became the first state. The states legislation moved across several different meeting locations before settling on The Hills Capitol, but even that burned down during a heavy snowstorm.

A new capitol building was commissioned after a contest was held to find the architect of it. The first attempt failed, but a second contest chose a local architect who build a building that received massively positive reviews. The dome was inspired by St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome and the one in Washington D.C.

Final Thoughts

Before you go, don’t forget to check out our list of Pennsylvania state facts. Here you will find a number of different facts to increase your knowledge of this state. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to leave a comment below about this amazing place!

printable map of Pennsylvania



About the Author
Brandon Ramsey

Brandon Ramsey is the head author and editor of The Time Now Blog. Be sure to follow us via social media!


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