9 Pennsylvania Nicknames You Should Know

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City buildings and trees next to a lake under a clear blue sky
Pennsylvania's monikers are inspired by many things, like its role in US history

Pennsylvania is one of the oldest states in the United States. It was one of the original Thirteen Colonies, with its Quaker State nickname getting its start back in 1681. But that's just the beginning of nicknames for the state, with many more arising over the next few centuries.

The state is known as the Birthplace of America because of its importance during the late 1700s and its role as a meeting place for political leaders of the period. But other nicknames, like the Steel State, evolved later as Pennsylvania's metal industry further developed. But that's just one of many monikers relating to the state's role as an economic powerhouse.

Within this article, you'll discover nine Pennsylvania nicknames you'll likely hear or read in everyday life or casual conversation. So, if you're ready to learn more names for the Keystone of the original colonies, keep reading!

9 Nicknames for Pennsylvania

A top of a building with a statue of a man near tall skyscrapers on a sunny day
Pennsylvania was founded by English colonists led by a Quaker, William Penn

Quaker State

The origins of the Quaker State nickname date to the very beginnings of Pennsylvania. That's because the original English colonists who founded colonial Pennsylvania were a group of Quakers, a religious sect led by William Penn.

King Charles II of England issued Penn a royal deed for the land in 1681 to satisfy a debt owed to Penn's father, an English naval officer and politician. Penn led his fellow Quakers to settle in Pennsylvania to escape the religious persecution they faced elsewhere in the colonies.

You'll find plenty of references to Penn and his Quakers, including the Quaker State nickname. Pennsylvania even means "Penn's woods" in Latin, and the Pennsylvania State University is commonly called Penn State.

Coal State

Pennsylvania earned the Coal State moniker from the historical prevalence of the coal industry in the region. Coal mining in Pennsylvania began in the mid-18th century, playing a massive role in the growth and development of the state's iron and steel industries.

Pennsylvania's coal production peaked in the early 20th century, although production remained high until after World War II. Today, the Coal State maintains a significant coal industry. Although production numbers are just a fraction of their peak a century ago, coal is still used for the majority of electricity generation in Pennsylvania.

The Keystone State is one of the oldest Pennsylvania nicknames
The Keystone State is the official Pennsylvania slogan

The Keystone State

The Keystone State is one of the oldest nicknames for Pennsylvania (it dates back to the colonial era). But why is Pennsylvania called the Keystone State? It relates to the fact that a keystone is the central wedge-shaped stone in the middle of a structural arch that holds the entire form in place.

Because of its importance among the original Thirteen Colonies, as well as its political and economic prominence at the time, Pennsylvania became known as the Keystone State. It was the state holding the others together.

You'll find references to keystones throughout the region, from Keystone State Park to the logos of state agencies. The motto has even been featured on Pennsylvania license plates.

Steel State

You'll frequently hear Pennsylvania called the Steel State. It's another of the most famous nicknames and refers to the state's steel industry. Steel played a massive role in the state's economy from the late 1800s until the 1980s.

It was actually the Pennsylvania Steel Company that first commercially produced steel in the United States in 1867. Up until the 1960s, the steel industry was booming in Pennsylvania, especially in Pittsburgh, which became known as the Steel City. Today, Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark is still one of the top attractions to see in Pennsylvania.

By the 1970s, advancements in steel manufacturing moved much of the production overseas as domestic companies largely failed to adapt to changing technologies.

Richard Himes/Shutterstock.com
An embossed bronze design of two horses on a stone wall
The Commonwealth is one of many Pennsylvania nicknames with historical origins

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a Pennsylvania nickname originating in the official name for the state: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The name comes from the English phrase for a community founded for a common good. By using the commonwealth term, Pennsylvania signified that it was ruled by the common consent of the residents and not the British Crown.

The first Pennsylvania constitution in 1776, and every subsequent version since, has referred to Pennsylvania as both a state and a commonwealth. You'll typically find the Commonwealth nickname used by Pennsylvanians rather than people outside the state. That's because three other states are also officially commonwealths and are sometimes referred to by the Commonwealth moniker. These states are Virginia, Massachusetts, and Kentucky.

Birthplace of America

You'll hear Pennsylvania referred to as the Birthplace of America due to the many significant American historical events that have taken place within the state. The nickname was first applied to the city of Philadelphia because of its role in the American Revolution. Philadelphia is where you'll find landmarks important to the founding of the country, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

An interesting Pennsylvania fact is that Independence Hall is the location where the American founding fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. While other states certainly contributed to the revolutionary cause, Pennsylvania remains known as the Birthplace of America.

An old wooden pavilion structure with benches and a sign saying "Drake Well"
The emergence of the American oil industry happened in the state of Pennsylvania

The Oil State

The Oil State is another nickname that refers to one of Pennsylvania's most important industries. Oil was first discovered in the city of Titusville in 1859. This event and the following Pennsylvania Oil Rush have become known as the birth of the American oil industry.

Oil production in the state grew throughout much of the rest of the 19th century before peaking in 1891. Today, oil is still produced in Pennsylvania, but on a far smaller scale. Despite once being America's leading oil extractor, modern production is dwarfed by states like Texas, New Mexico, and North Dakota.

The Unavoidable State

It's not the most flattering nickname for Pennsylvania, but you will occasionally hear it called the Unavoidable State. The Unavoidable moniker comes from Pennsylvania's significant presence in the region. It's hard to avoid passing through the state when traveling to or from places in the Northeast, like New York and the New England area.

But being the Unavoidable State isn't all bad. Because of Pennsylvania's proximity to so many major US cities, the state has developed into a hub for freight and shipping.

A red brick building with a clock tower near a flagpole and a bronze statue
The US Declaration of Independence was signed in Pennsylvania in 1776

Independence State

Like the Birthplace of America moniker, the Independence State recognizes Pennsylvania's sizable contributions during the nation's founding. At Independence Hall in Philadelphia (then called the Pennsylvania State House), the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Then, more than a decade later, in 1787, it's also where the United States Constitution was ratified. Additionally, the American Revolution's Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania was the second-largest battle of the war by number of troops (after the Battle of Long Island).

Almost a century later, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln reinvigorated the Independence State's fighting spirit with his famous Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In Summary

Given the area's history, it's unsurprising that there are so many Pennsylvania state nicknames. The Quaker State slogan dates back to 1681, while other nicknames like the Coal State and the Oil State originated in the 1700s and 1800s, respectively.

In fact, most nicknames for the state have historical beginnings. But while some are probably familiar, others, like the Independence State, aren't brought up as frequently. Whether you live in the Unavoidable State or are learning more about it, you've hopefully discovered some new nicknames for Pennsylvania and a few interesting facts about its past.

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Written by Jonathan Davis

JDavis WRITER Jonathan is a Florida-based travel writer who can't seem to stay in one place for long. With more than two decades of trips under his belt, Jonathan has a wealth of information to share about travel within the United States and abroad.

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