Pennsylvania: A History

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Such controversies prepared the people for their part in the Revolution. These wars ended the long period when Pennsylvania was virtually without defense. The government built forts and furnished men and supplies to help defend the empire to which it belonged.


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The territory claimed for New France included western Pennsylvania. The Longueuil and Celoron expeditions of the French in and traversed this region, and French traders competed with Pennsylvanians for Indian trade. The French efforts in and to establish control over the upper Ohio Valley led to the last and conclusive colonial war, the French and Indian War In George Washington of Virginia failed to persuade the French to leave and in they defeated his militia company at Fort Necessity. In the ensuing war, General Edward Braddock's British and colonial army was slaughtered on the Monongahela in , but General John Forbes recaptured the site of Pittsburgh in After the war, the Native Americans rose up against the British colonies in Pontiac's War, but in August , Colonel Henry Bouquet defeated them at Bushy Run, interrupting the threat to the frontier in this region.

In , for the second time, England captured from the Dutch the area that became the state of Delaware and the Duke of York made an undocumented assertion that it was part of New York, a colony that he was clearly entitled to govern because of charters from the king.

Pennsylvania State History

William Penn's Charter from King Charles II made no mention of them, although the Duke completed grants that assumed he could legally convey the area to Penn. In the Pennsylvania Assembly, which had Delaware representatives, approved an Act of Union that made the Pennsylvania Charter applicable to the three counties, but Delaware leaders resented domination by Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania's Charter of Privileges of allowed the union to be dissolved if assemblymen of both colonies agreed to do it.

But Delaware leaders refused to acknowledge the Charter of Privileges unless they received as many Assembly seats as the Pennsylvania counties. When the Pennsylvanians would not accept this, Governor Gookin in , convened a separate Assembly for the Delaware counties, which continued to exist until Delaware and Pennsylvania had separate Assemblies but shared the same governor until , although many Delawareans insisted that the Penn family had no proprietary rights in their counties and that Pennsylvania's governors had authority in Delaware only because they were royal appointees.

At the beginning of the American Revolution, the connection of the governorship function was dissolved when both colonies became states. From its beginning, Pennsylvania ranked as a leading agricultural area and produced surpluses for export, adding to its wealth. By the s an exceptionally prosperous farming area had developed in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania History Genealogy - FamilySearch Wiki

Wheat and corn were the leading crops, though rye, hemp, and flax were also important. The abundant natural resources of the colony made for early development of industries. Arts and crafts, as well as home manufactures, grew rapidly. Sawmills and gristmills were usually the first to appear, using the power of the numerous streams. Textile products were spun and woven mainly in the home, though factory production was not unknown.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Shipbuilding became important on the Delaware. The province gained importance in iron manufacturing, producing pig iron as well as finished products. Printing, publishing, and the related industry of papermaking, as well as tanning, were significant industries. The Pennsylvania long rifle was an adaptation of a German hunting rifle developed in Lancaster County.

Its superiority was so well recognized that by gunsmiths were duplicating it in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland. The Conestoga wagon was also developed in Lancaster County.


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  5. Capable of carrying as much as four tons, it was the prototype for the principal vehicle for American westward migration, the prairie schooner. The rivers were important as early arteries of commerce and were soon supplemented by roads in the southeastern section. By , stagecoach lines reached from Philadelphia into the southcentral region. Trade with the Indians for furs was important in the colonial period. Later, the transport and sale of farm products to Philadelphia and Baltimore, by water and road, formed an important business.

    Philadelphia became one of the most important centers in the colonies for the conduct of foreign trade and the commercial metropolis of an expanding hinterland. Philadelphia was known in colonial times as the "Athens of America" because of its rich cultural life. Because of the liberality of Penn's principles and the freedom of expression that prevailed, the province developed a conspicuous variety and strength in its intellectual and educational institutions and interests.

    An academy that held its first classes in became the College of Philadelphia in , and ultimately grew into the University of Pennsylvania. It was the only nondenominational college of the colonial period. The arts and sciences flourished, and the public buildings of Philadelphia were the marvel of the colonies. Many fine old buildings in the Philadelphia area still bear witness to the richness of Pennsylvania's civilization in the eighteenth century. Newspapers and magazines flourished, as did law and medicine.

    Pennsylvania can claim America's first hospital, first library, and first insurance company. Quakers held their first religious meeting at Upland now Chester in , and they came to Pennsylvania in great numbers after William Penn received his Charter. Most numerous in the southeastern counties, the Quakers gradually declined in number but retained considerable influence. Although the Lutheran Church was established by the Swedes on Tinicum Island in , it only began its growth to become the largest of the Protestant denominations in Pennsylvania upon the arrival of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg in The Reformed Church owed its expansion to Michael Schlatter, who arrived in The Moravians did notable missionary work among the Native Americans.

    The Church of England held services in Philadelphia as early as The first Catholic congregation was organized in Philadelphia in , and the first chapel was erected in ; Pennsylvania had the second largest Catholic population among the colonies. The Scotch brought Presbyterianism; its first congregation was organized in Philadelphia in Scotch-Irish immigrants swelled its numbers.

    Methodism began late in the colonial period. George's Church, built in Philadelphia in , is the oldest Methodist building in America. There was also a significant Jewish population in colonial Pennsylvania. Its Mikveh Israel Congregation was established in Philadelphia in The southern boundary, especially the famous Mason-Dixon Line dividing Pennsylvania and Maryland, which was surveyed and marked by the English team of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in and approved in Britain two years later, ended arguments begun when Charles II had issued Pennsylvania's Charter in Maryland's Charter of extended to the Delaware River above Philadelphia, and the boundary description in the Pennsylvania Charter was obscured by ambiguous terms and its creators' limited knowledge of geography.

    In King James II determined that Maryland would not have the three counties of Delaware, but it was not until that Maryland's proprietor agreed that the longitudinal line separating his colony from Pennsylvania would run from a point fifteen miles south of the most southern point in Philadelphia. Within a year he changed his mind, so that lengthy High Court of Chancery proceedings in England and armed clashes between Maryland and Pennsylvania settlers had to occur before a chancery decree in authorized the final settlement, a refinement of the bargain.

    Mason and Dixon were called in when American surveyors were unable to calculate boundary lines that matched the authorized specifications. The Charter's provisions for Pennsylvania's western expanse clashed with the land description in Virginia's older charter. From until the opening of the American Revolution, Virginia's governor, Lord Dunmore, controlled southwestern Pennsylvania as a district of Virginia, and irregular warfare took place between his followers and settlers loyal to Pennsylvania.

    Pennsylvania's northern boundary was also undetermined, and settlers from Connecticut, organized as the private Susquehannah Company, arguing on the basis of both Connecticut's colonial charter and a questionable land purchase deed made from some Iroquois chiefs in , occupied the Wyoming Valley and had hopes of obtaining much of northern Pennsylvania.

    At the Treaty of Fort Stanwix or "Old Purchase" in , Pennsylvania purchased from the Iroquois a vast expanse of the land included within the Charter. Arguing that this confirmed their deed, the Connecticut settlers re-entered northeastern Pennsylvania. In , Connecticut's government decided to officially support the Susquehannah Company settlers, and by the beginning of the American Revolution they had defeated the neighboring Pennsylvania settlers in several campaigns known as the Yankee-Pennamite Wars.

    Also dating back to an ambiguity in the Charter of , and overlapping with the dispute with Connecticut, was the question of the longitudinal line separating New York and Pennsylvania. The intervening controversy with Connecticut and the Revolutionary War delayed surveying and marking the line until The career of the versatile genius and popular leader Benjamin Franklin spans Pennsylvania's history from his first appearance in Philadelphia until his death in He led the way to the establishment of beneficial civic institutions including newspapers and other popular publications, a fire company, a circulating library, a hospital, paper money, and a postal mail system.

    The persuasiveness of his popular writings imbued the public with common sense, public morality, and optimism. His scientific research explored natural phenomenon, and his inventions enlarged human mastery of the environment. His political leadership was critical to the movement for independent establishment of governments intended to operate for the best interests of humanity. As an outstanding example of an individual rising through his own abilities, Franklin has always been upheld as a model for Americans.

    Railroads forced the abandonment of the canals by the s. During the Long Depression following the Panic of , a statewide railroad strike in over delayed wages led to a violent protest and clash with the National Guard in which six Reading men were killed.

    About this Journal

    Following more than a century of prosperity, the Reading Company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in The bankruptcy was a result of dwindling coal shipping revenues and strict government regulations that denied railroads the ability to set competitive prices, required high taxes, and forced the railroads to continue to operate money-losing passenger service lines.

    On April 1, , the Reading Company sold its current railroad interests to the newly formed Consolidated Railroad Corporation Conrail. The Early part of the 19th century witnessed the great turnpike and canal era, succeeded by the building of the Reading Railroad, radiating in all directions from the City of Reading. The construction of the railroad was probably the single greatest factor in the development of Berks county. Agriculture is an important industry in Berks County Today, Reading is a city pulsating with industrial life.

    It is also well equipped with agencies that represent civilization at it's best-churches, hospitals, clubs, fraternal societies, recreational centers. Reading claims the distinction of a symphony orchestra, two choral societies, a chamber musical ensemble, a civic opera company and many other excellent music groups that have contributed to the city's prestige as a center of art and culture.

    Three levels of museum exhibits interpret our colorful history from the Conestoga Wagon to the Duryea to toys, crafts, fine arts, all related to our social history. Here you can truly find your past. The Historical Society is located at Centre Avenue. Skip to main content.


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