Pennsylvania has claim to some of the most important and interesting history of the United States. Philadelphia was the nation’s first capital and so many vital events and documents trace their origins back there. Though we’ve all heard some of the more well-known stories plenty of times, there are some weird and interesting things about Pennsylvania’s history that you may not know.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Kelpius Monks of Wissahickon Valley were a mystical cult.
The "Society of the Woman in the Wilderness" was what some would consider a doomsday cult; the German immigrant, Johannes Kelpius and his followers settled in the area outside of Philadelphia in the late 1600s, with the belief that the world would end in 1694. They chose Pennsylvania because of its freedom of religious practice. There, the monks practiced medicine, music, and scholarship and Johannes himself lived and worked there until his death.
2. You could ride out the end of the world at The Raven Rock Mountain Complex near Blue Ridge Summit.
Also known as Site R, this complex was constructed by the military during the Cold War to serve as a second pentagon in case of nuclear attack on the United States. I had no idea that this giant bunker was in PA, close to the Maryland border. Though its location is public knowledge now, that wasn't always the case; the majority of Soviet research during the early 1960s went towards trying to discover its location.
3. Meadowcroft Rockshelter holds the oldest human artifacts from the Western world.
Did you know that the oldest known evidence of humanity in the Americas was found in Pennsylvania? The Meadowcroft Rockshelter is an archaeological site near Avella in Washington County and there scientists found artifacts that are at least 16,000 years old and possibly 19,000 years old. And you thought the leftover meatloaf at the back of your fridge was old.
4. The country’s first petition against slavery was made in Germantown in 1688.
Pennsylvania, as a colony, was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and apparently its inhabitants liked freedom of all kinds. A group of Quakers led by a guy named Francis Daniel Pastorius wrote a petition saying what you may or may not, but definitely, have heard a million times: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Francis Daniel Pastorius for president!
5. The Tornado Outbreak of May 31, 1985 was way worse than you could imagine.
Tornadoes aren't usually something we pay too much attention to, over her in our mountainous state, but on May 31, 1985 it was impossible to ignore them. More than 20 tornados broke out in Pennsylvania that day, including a gigantic F-4 tornado that gobbled up over 70 miles worth of trees, structures, cars, cows, and kids named Dorothy.
6. The Liberty Bell once had to hide out in a basement.
One of Philadelphia's greatest claims to fame is that it holds the Liberty Bell, which each year legions of schoolchildren and tourists flock to see. It is an important symbol of our nation's principles of freedom. Many do not know, though that, in 1777 the Liberty Bell was stashed in the basement of Zion's United Church of Christ in Allentown to keep it safe from the British. Though the bell is back in its Philadelphia home, today the Liberty Bell Museum exists in the church's basement. Though it's less than a mile from where I went to high school, I have never been there.
7. The Eagles and the Steelers merged to form The Steagles for one season in 1943.
If you're a sports person, you might know this one. If you're a sports person and you don't know this one, you're in for a treat. The rivalry between the Eagles and the Steelers is... Well, they're two professional football teams located on opposite sides of the state. It's what you would expect. During World War II, both teams had lost so many players that they had to forget their rivalry and join forces to become... The Steagles! I'm not sure why they couldn't be the Steel Eagles, but okay.
8. The world's first computer was built in Philadelphia in 1946.
ENIAC stands for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer and it was built in Philadelphia, primarily for use by the military. As you know, it was a hit.
9. A famous Norwegian violinist tried to establish a New Norway in 1852 at the site of what is now Ole Bull State Park.
Ole Borneman Bull purchased 120,000 acres of land to create a settlement for his fellow Norwegians. They started four communities here and even started work on a castle! It was all abandoned within a year, though. The settlers got discouraged because they didn't know how to farm in this Pennsylvania soil. Most of them migrated west, to the Dakotas or Minnesota.
This is only the tip of the iceberg: Pennsylvania history is a vast mine. What else would you add to this list?