Library of Congress 43.SS.63934A.2001
Pennsylvania History - The Real Story
A synopsis of Pennsylvania history by and for the uninformed, with links
to everything you need to know, not necessarily in chronological order.

Click on the banner for the Pennsylvania web site

Look out Injuns here we come!   Beginnings    In 1492 William Penn scored big in a game of chance in England with Christopher Columbus and King Lear. He won a forested wasteland in the New World. Later that year he sailed to the place with an entourage in a few ships he borrowed from a Spanish guy, landing at Penn's Landing. Upon setting foot on land, he was heard to say "Oh my God someone should go into the lumber business here." One of the lady passengers onboard, Georgia Pacific, had descendants who did just that. Penn's party was greeted on shore by a tribe of Indians, who invited them to sit down and enjoy America's first Thanksgiving dinner. Those (later known as) Native Americans were friendly in those days because white man hadn't yet stolen their land or given them Irish whiskey.

Substandard housing   The State Grows    To pay off his other gambling debts Penn sold off plots in what he named "Penns Woods". For some unknown reason Democrats bought plots in the Philadelphia area and Republicans, German farmers mainly, bought the cheaper plots with lower taxes, but more of them, in the rest of the Woods, except in the smoke-belching area later known as Pittsburgh.

Go fly a kite, they said, and he did!   Pioneer Spirit    In Philadelphia, Ben Franklin invented electricity while flying a kite. Other inventions attributed to Ben include Welfare and the delicious Franklin Mint (run out of business by a Republican capitalist pig named Milton Hershey who bought up all of the sugar and chocolate futures and built an amusement park to celebrate).
In the rest of the Woods the farmers did good and prospered and built buggys and founded towns like Centralia.

Poor workmanship   Revolution    In the meantime, other states were settled and formed a union, called the *United States of America. At first it was a loose knit group of renegades who did not yet exercise as much power as did the AFL-CIO, which had been formed to collect money from workers who did real work. England was still in charge but it was no match for this union. Concurrently, workers who paid union dues didn't have enough money to buy British tea, so they threw a tea party up in Boston. It was in Philadelphia, however, that the Liberty Bell got cracked, angering the British, who had sent it over for polishing. This started a Revolution because insurance didn't cover the damage to the bell. The American revolutionists had a lot of children, mostly daughters, who formed their own organization. This revolted the male children who later formed their own club.

Ward Bond leads the way   Westward Ho!    One day in Philadelphia, a few of the Democrats decided "We like the crime and petulance here but we're sick of the stench wafting over from those toxic waste dumps in New Jersey." One of them, Brigham Young, who was a waiter at Bookbinder's and whose Dad, Pat, owned a Philly steak shop, hollered "Go West Young Men". So, some of the Democrats got on Rt. 30 and migrated West and settled Pittsburgh, bypassing the good parts of the state where the Republicans already lived. The trip from Philly to Pittsburgh was difficult in those days, with no paved roads, no fast food restaurants, and hostile Indians. The "real" West, of course, where the cowboys lived, hadn't been invented yet. That story is part of American History, which, of course, hadn't been written yet. Joe Lewis and Petula Clark would later write that part of the nation's history.

Prez Lincoln   Civil War   In the 1860's there was a war over slavery that took place in Gettysburg. Lincoln was President then and he had an address there but he wasn't home at the time. Generals U.S. Grant, from the North, and Robert E. Lee, from the South, had their armies fighting over a picket fence at Little Round Top, which was a small hill just outside of town. There was a tall observation tower near the battle scene so people could watch what was going on, and which has since been removed. There was also an electric map to watch, and lots of souvenir shops where tourists could buy bullets and trinkets with Gettysburg written on them. Some of these shops are still there today. See the map where the war took place, no longer electric. Many years later President Eisenhower had a farm in Gettysburg where he raised cattle.

They washed your windshield, too!   Industrial Revolution    Ed Drake was a well driller in Titusville. He was drilling deep and hit black water, thus inventing oil. Some guy named Pennz, fascinated with this new discovery, accidentally built a cracking tower while putting up his CB radio antenna, invented gasoline and formed a company to make products from oil. And so began the modern petroleum industry. Needing a market for his gas and oil, Pennz called on another inventor, Henry Ford, who was making wrenches at the time, to think up something that would need these products. Alas, the automobile!
Famous Pennsylvanians went on to invent other great things like Dixie Cups, steel mills, deer hunting, Harley Davidson motorcycles, coal mines, PBS and asbestos.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Referred links. Little known facts:

William Penn hated trains, they threatened the family canal boat business. It's ironic that his great-great-grand-nephew, Thadeus Penn, teamed up with a frat brother, Cyrus Central, to form the Penn-Central Railroad, to be later known as Amtrak. Also ironic that Penn, who hated to waste time at the movies, they didn't serve his brand of popcorn, has a great-great-great-grandson, on his wife's side, Sean Penn.

Christopher Columbus is incorrectly attributed with discovering the New World. Actually, he was on Penn's ship and was the probably first one to wake up from an all night drinking party and the first to spot land. He was later deported to Ohio where a city is named for him.

King Lear had a nephew who sailed along with Penn to the New World. His descendants went into the truck cap business.

Ben Franklin was also known for inventing the Franklin stove. It's arrival on the scene necessitated the forming of fire departments and fire insurance companies, firsts for which Franklin is also credited with founding. However, the warmth and comfort provided by the stove made it a popular furnishing in most homes of the era. It renderered a crushing blow to Franklin's friend, Thomas Edison, who was manufacturing electric blankets at the time. Edison went on to invent the light bulb, so today we don't have to watch TV in the dark.

Milton Hershey made his fortune in Central Pennsylvania, where he named a town after himself. He learned about Franklin's new Welfare program and built orphanages for poor Philadelphia boys. Franklin paid him $700 per month each to take 5000 boys to Hershey to bale hay. These boys loved candy, so Hershey made candy and named a company after himself. It was a tough struggle, the candy business, and Hershey twice failed with Hershey Vanilla and Hershey Strawberry before striking gold with the correct recipe. Hershey was a cad, put his good friend Franklin out of the Franklin Mint business (see above), Franklin retaliated by cutting off the orphanage money, but the orphans were saved by the new Pennsylvania Welfare System, formed that year by the State Legislature, to which Hershey just happened to be an elected member.

Brigham Young had a descendant who moved to Utah, started a cult around saints who were late because they had so many wives, and founded the Marmon Automobile Company, which ran into trouble with an invasion of locusts, shorting out the autos' electrical systems. Mormon's auto division was eventually sold to Studebaker, but its extensive real estate holdings are still intact.

Ulysses S. Grant is buried in Grant's Tomb.

Robert E. Lee had a cousin who later started a blue jeans company.

Please read the disclaimer.

Many thanks to the Perry County, Pennsylvania, Board of Education for their permission to use excerpts from their collection of essays from recent graduates entitled "Whut I lernt in skool".

History is unclear here, but is based on extensive research by the Perry County students, embracing a widely accepted academic tool known as over-assumption. The webmaster is grateful for those students' efforts to uncover these little known facts.

After the 2000 Presidential elections, when the States lost their names and identities on that new red and blue map of the nation ..
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh became known as Gore Country.
The rest of the Woods became known as Bush Country.

In the unlikely event that you haven't found everything here you need to know about Pennsylvania click here.

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