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Random Thoughts: So you think you know your state?

June 28, 2013

Everyone knows that Pennsylvania has a rich and colorful history, but what trivial facts do you really know about the state?

Do you know, for instance, that Pennsylvania is called a commonwealth rather than a state?

And everyone should have learned in history class that our nickname is the Keystone State, but what does the word "Pennsylvania" mean?

Everyone knows that the first part was named for William Penn, the founder of the state.

Well, not quite. The government of King Charles II in 1681 owed Penn's father, Admiral William Penn, a great deal of money.

What an easy way to pay a debt but to hand over land in a distant country the English king didn't need or want.

So, the "Penn" part is for the father, not the son. The "sylvania" part means woodland. Loose translation: Penn's woods.

In the past few weeks, there has been little reticent speech about immigrants to this country, especially about those who have lived here for a long time.

In 1683, the native Americans lived in Penn's woods, and it was with them that Penn signed a treaty for a peaceful co-existence.

It was some 165 years after Penn's death for him and his wife, Hannah, to be proclaimed American citizens.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan granted the couple citizenship. Talk about a long time.

If you have been reading the news lately, you saw that Warren Buffet recently purchased the H. J. Heinz outfit, a company that began in Sharpsburg in 1869.

Most of us are familiar with the tomato stuff the company produces, but Henry Heinz's first commercial adventure was the bottling of horseradish.

Now here's an easy one.

What sandwich became the lunchtime favorite of workers at the Hog Island Shipyard in Philadelphia? First called hoggies, we now call them hoagies.

Well, yes, some folks do call them submarines, or subs for short.

By the way, tomatoes are a leading agricultural crop, but something else is right there with them.

No, not corn or wheat or apples but something that doesn't even see the light of day, let alone a field.

In 1904, Edward Jacob established the state's first commercial cultivation of them, an enterprise that has made them one of the state's leading crops. You guessed it. Mushrooms.

Keep reading the news to find out life's more interesting items.

Last week, it was the Boy Scouts. Now the Girl Scouts decided to grab some headlines.

They are in the news for lower membership numbers, sale of campgrounds, financial deficits and the big one, pension costs.

Folks are saying money collected should not be going to pension costs, but rather to send young girls to summer camp.

Well, the Girl Scouts started their door-to-door treks to raise money in Philadelphia in 1933 to do just that, and they did it by selling cookies.

Many of you might think the name Penn State also has been in the news too much lately, but the school has had some firsts in its time.

It was 1933 when Penn State Professor Amos Neyhart created the course of driver education.

Unfortunately, these days it is too expensive for many schools to continue the practice of teaching young people the proper way to drive.

Let's call up some names and see if you can identify their newer names.

First one: it was founded in 1878 with the name of College of Arts and Letters. In its original charter, the next one was called the Pittsburgh Academy. Next one was called the University of Lewisburg and the final one was called the Farmers High School.

Bet you can name them because Punxsutawney graduates have gone to all four of these schools.

Two of them are in Pittsburgh, one by its name is in Lewisburg and the last one is in the geographical center of the state.

Their names: Duquesne University (1878), University of Pittsburgh (1787), Bucknell University (1846) and Penn State (1855).

Here's some homework for you.

There are lots of folks who will argue the separation of state and religion, but go find a Bible and check out Leviticus 25:10.

And where do you think you will find the words to proclaim liberty throughout all the land?

Those words could be in many places, but for us here in Pennsylvania, it is right there on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

Oh, the things you could know; no, make that should know, about your state. Maybe there will be a future column on Pennsylvania trivia.

Last month's teaser wanted to know when the first bikes were manufactured in America.

The answer: 1878. Now, for this month. |

What other commonwealths are there besides Pennsylvania?

Did you know any of this? Well, now you do.

Roberta Dinsmore can be reached at randomrmd@yahoo.com.

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