Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where Independence Reigns

Magnet # 414:  Map of Pennsylvania

Material:  Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By:  Dad

We're heading up North for another statehood anniversary that actually occurs tomorrow - that of Pennsylvania.  It was the second state to join the Union in 1787, with Delaware beating it out by just five days.  It's also one of the states with the most storied histories.

While the British claimed the area that would become Pennsylvania as part of the Virginia territory, Dutch explorer Henry Hudson was actually the first European to arrive there in 1609 before sailing upward on the river that would be named in his honor.  His visit brought more Dutch to the region, but it was the Swedes who established the first settlement there on Tinicum Island.  The Dutch mostly ignored their intrusion there, building their own nearby settlement that was later taken by the Swedes.  At this provocation, the Dutch rose up and forced all of the Swedes out of the area.  They'd control it for almost a decade before losing their territory to the British.  The Duke of York managed the area until 1681 when King Charles II transferred it to William Penn to pay off a debt he had owed Penn's father.  Penn's first choice for a name was New Wales, but that was struck down by a Welsh member of the Privy Council.  So he chose Sylvania instead, which is another name for woods, and the King added Penn to honor the family.  William Penn was a Quaker and wanted to ensure the religious rights of those of his faith and others in Pennsylvania.  He traveled over to act as governor himself and did all in his power to give his people rights over their lives and their property, and he even paid the Native Americans for their land.  But Penn had a hard time keeping control over the area when King Charles was overthrown and William and Mary took his place.  He managed to assure them of his loyalty and his position as governor was reinstated.  Following his death in 1718, management of Pennsylvania passed to his family.  By the middle of the century, as the colonies became increasingly discontent with British rule, Philadelphia rose to prominence, becoming host of two Continental Congresses and the birthplace of liberty when the delegates voted to declare their independence from Britain.  During the American Revolution, a good deal of the action was played out in Pennsylvania, but that didn't deter their resolve from joining the Union.  And for a decade, Philadelphia served as the capitol of the United States.  It's almost tough to believe, but this highly patriotic state has only provided its nation with one President - James Buchanan.  The Keystone State was later the site of some of the most important battles of the Civil War.  Since then, it's become one of the most prosperous states in the nation.  William Penn might even be proud of the legacy he's left in Pennsylvania, from its eagerness to uphold individual rights, to its anti-slavery stance and its industrious work ethics.

I've only been to Pennsylvania once in my life, during a trip with my family, and we ended up spending more time there than we had originally planned.  On the road, we had some car trouble.  It wasn't too hard to take care of the tire that blew out in Virginia, but when our fuel pump went out in Dutch Country, we were stuck for a couple of days.  Still, we made the most of it, renting a car and driving around.  We went to Intercourse, saw some Amish driving around in horse-drawn buggies, and checked out the shops.  We also stopped by Hershey's Chocolate World, not to be confused with Hersheypark, the nearby theme park.  There, we sampled some chocolate and learned about the history of the Hershey Company and learned how they create their wonderful treats.  We ended up having a really nice time during that unexpected detour.  Of course, there's still plenty in Pennsylvania that I have left to see.  Philadelphia is one of the few major metropolitan cities east of the Mississippi River that I haven't been to, and I'd like to get a chance to check it out.  Not only does it have a great deal of noteworthy sites, like Independence National Historical Park, home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and Congress Hall, it also has some very creepy spots.  Two of the best are Eastern State Penitentiary, a revolutionary prison that featured private cells with skylights, and Fort Mifflin, which protected the city during the Revolutionary War.  Both are now said to be haunted.  And speaking of haunted, I'd also really like to tour Gettysburg, where perhaps the most famous Civil War was fought.  It's now home to a number of historic sites and is said to be one of the most haunted sites on the planet.  Of course, I'd also like to see the State Capitol in Harrisburg.  It features a marble staircase that's based on the Paris Grand Opera House, a dome inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, stained glass windows, mural paintings, and is apparently quite majestic.  Theodore Roosevelt even called it the most beautiful of all the state capitols.  There are also some other, more industrial cities that might be fun to visit, like Pittsburgh, Erie, and Scranton.  And I might enjoy seeing Pennsylvania's Dutch Country again.  The Keystone State certainly has plenty of exciting attractions to offer, and I'd like to have a look at some more of them for myself.

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