The 10 Pennsylvania symbols you probably didn’t know about

    School may be out for most, but you just never stop learning. “What did you learn today?” Why, we learned that Pennsylvania has a state gun. Here’s what else you didn’t know about Pennsylvania’s state symbols.

    School may be out for most, but you just never stop learning. “What did you learn today?” Why, we learned that Pennsylvania has a state gun. Indeed, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted on Monday to name the Pennsylvania Long Rifle the official state firearm. (H/T Philly Mag)


    Developed by German gunsmiths in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1700s using native materials, these long-barreled rifles were praised for their grace, accuracy and durability.

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    Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh County) has been after this since introducing the legislation in 2010. At the time Pennsylvania would have been the first state to adopt a state gun. Sadly, four other states beat us to the punch:

    Utah: M1911 pistol (March 2011)
    Arizona: Colt Single Action Army revolver (April 2011)
    Indiana: Grouseland Rifle (March 2012)
    West Virginia: Hall rifle (April 2013)

    (To paraphrase Tennyson, it would seem that in the spring an American legislator’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of guns.)

    Some said adopting a state firearm was unthinkable because of the gun violence in Pennsylvania’s cities, but supporters point to the weapon’s role in winning independence and taming the wilderness. Whichever side you fall on, probably you never knew we could even have a state gun.

    Most people probably do know that the official state game bird, for example, is the ruffed grouse. But there are a lot of other state symbols you probably don’t know about. Heaven knows we didn’t. So to set things right, here’s a list:

    1. Fish: brook trout

    Also New Jersey’s state fish. Delaware voted in the weakfish.

    2. Dog: Great Dane

    The Great Dane is a popular German hunting dog. Famous Great Danes include Hagrid’s companion in the Harry Potter series, Fang; Marmaduke; George Jetson’s dog, Astro; and (with an abnormally long tail) Scooby-Doo.

    3. Animal (mammal)

    The white-tailed deer — though this hardly seems notable: It’s the most common deer in North and South America. Plus, it’s also the state animal of Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina, the wildlife symbol of Wisconsin, and the official game animal of Oklahoma.


    New Jersey: horse. Delaware: grey fox.

    4. Insect: Pennsylvania firefly

    Also known as Photuris pennsylvanica.

    New Jersey: European honeybee. Delaware: seven-spotted ladybug.

    5. Flower: mountain laurel

    Admittedly, you may already have known that the state flower is the mountain laurel, but here’s a bonus: The official “beautification and conservation plant” of Pennsylvania is the Penngift crown vetch. Impress your friends at your next dinner party with that one.

    New Jersey: violet. Delaware: peach blossom.

    6. Tree: eastern hemlock

    Also known as the Canadian hemlock, this is a coniferous tree — but don’t go chopping one down for Christmas. It’s a shedder.

    New Jersey: northern red oak. Delaware: American holly

    7. Beverage: milk

    Pennsylvania’s got milk — and so has Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. (New Jersey doesn’t have an official drink, but if they did, you could probably find it on the boardwalk in Ocean City.)

    Second to the white-tailed deer for boring state symbols, unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case milk can be quite evocative. Hey, it’s better than Indiana — which actually voted for water as the official state beverage.

    8. Electric locomotive: GG1 4859

    The Pennsylvania Railroad 4859, ceremoniously and permanently stationed at the Harrisburg Transportation Center in 1986, pulled the first electrically powered train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg on January 15, 1938. Retired in 1979, this locomotive was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and again in 2004. 

    9. Steam locomotive: (There are two!) K4s 1361 and K4s 3750

    Designated as official state symbols in 1987, the same year as their electric cousin above, both of these beasts represent the most famous class of Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotives. The former is located in Scranton, the the latter is at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg. 

    10. Fossil: Phacops rana

    Yeah, who knew? It’s a kind of trilobite, a giant underwater-dwelling pill bug that lived way before the dinosaurs. How’d you like to see one of these 6-inch monsters crowling out of your bathtub drain?

    Delaware: Belemnite (an extinct species of squid)

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