Pennsylvania History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

Pennsylvania History

This beautiful ancestral homeland of the Delaware, Iroquois, Shawanee and Susquehannock Indians changed irrevocably in the early 17th century.

Although initially claimed by the British as part of the Virginia Colony , the Dutch and Swedes established small trading posts along the Delaware River and both clashed for control. The Swedes built the first permanent settlement in 1638, but both factions were eventually kicked out as the powerful English claimed their territory.

In 1691 King Charles II of England granted a large piece of land to the Quaker leader, William Penn. Penn’s promise of religious freedom proved a magnet for thousands of settlers, and Philadelphia ( due to its geographic locationlisten)) eventually became the cultural, economic, and political center of the thirteen original colonies.

In the initial stages here, the inability of the new European colonists and local Indians to live side by side, eventually forced the Indians to migrate west. Most that remained would perish from the brutality of colonial expansion.

An ongoing dispute between the Penn family of Pennsylvania and the Calvert family of Maryland over the border between the two colonies finally broke out in war in 1730. After years of violent and bloody conflicts, King George II of England negotiated a truce in 1738. Shortly thereafter, the English inspectors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, delineated the official border, and this is the original property dispute resolution,The Mason-Dixon Line would later become the symbolic dividing line between the Northern and Southern states during the American Civil War.

As part of the British Empire, Pennsylvania ( particularly in the Western Territories) was an active participant in the ongoing wars between Britain and France for dominance in North America. The French and Indian War (1754-1763) was the last and final battle. The British won, but plunged into war debt. The King of England, in a creative way to pay off that debt, determined to raise tax monies from his new colonies and that decision was the origin of the American Revolutionary War.

In the mid-1700s, eastern Pennsylvania was bustling with trade; overcame the colonies with water and road agricultural products. Philadelphia shipped a wide variety of goods to inland farms and cities, and was transformed into a vital center of foreign trade. The arts, learning, and sciences flourished, newspapers and magazines were printed, and America ‘s first hospital was built.

By early 1776 Pennsylvania was a strong force in colonial America. It was then that the King of England imposed new taxes on the colonies. Insulted citizens and merchants in Philadelphia and throughout the colonies began to resist and riot, and talk of independence was in the air. Philadelphia was the hotbed of that activity.

Pennsylvania and the early United States of America

In June 1776 a committee of the Second Continental Congress, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut(“Committee of Five”), was formed to design a declaration of independence from Britain.

Church bells sounded across Philadelphia on July 4, 1776….signaling that the Declaration of Independence was approved and formally accepted and signed at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Eleven years later, in 1787, the American constitution was designed and signed in the same building.

The American Revolutionary War was fought on many fronts, and Pennsylvania troops took part in campaigns across the colonies and on into Canada. Pennsylvania’s farms and factories were essential to the success of the Revolutionary armies.

General George Washington (America’s first president) and his bloodied and battle-worn Continental Army wintered in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. (1777-1778). This tactical decision provided a much needed rest and retraining period, and after six months in the camp his highly motivated and revitalized army marched out of the Valley Forge to defeat the British in battle after battle.

In the end, the relentless courage and desire of the colonists for freedom at all costs, and with the valuable help of the French alliance (one negotiated by Benjamin Franklin) the British surrendered on October 19, 1781, and a new country was born.

Pennsylvania Timeline

1600s

  • (1608) Captain John Smith of Virginia visited the Indians of Susquehannock
  • (1609) Henry Hudson claimed land Dutch
  • (1615 – 1616) Explorers Etienne Brühl of France, Cornelius Hendriksen of the Netherlands explored part of Pennsylvania; Bruhl lived among the Indians
  • (1632) Brule killed by Indians
  • (1643) Swedes established first permanent settlement in Pennsylvania on Tinicum Island
  • (1655) Dutch captured Swedish settlements
  • (1664) British captured Dutch colonies on behalf of the Duke of York
  • (1676) Laws of the Duke of York introduced for English laws, civil government
  • (1681) William Penn received the Royal Grant of Pennsylvania from King Charles II
  • (1682) Duke of York deeded lands to William Penn; Penn arrived in Pennsylvania, located Philadelphia; created three original counties; first held Assembly, united Delaware County with Pennsylvania, passed the Great Law
  • (1683) Penn signed a treaty of friendship with the Lenni Indians of the Lenape; Mennonite families arrived from Germany, enduring Germantown
  • (1684) Congress named William Penn and wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn, third, fourth honorary citizens of the United States.
  • (1686) Penn bought land along the Lehigh River from the Lenape Indians
  • (1688) Quakers of Germantown pass first anti-slavery resolution in America

1700s

  • (1701) Penn introduced the Charter of Privilege for the Province of Pennsylvania; established religious freedom, tolerance. Remained as a constitution until the American Revolution
  • (1712) Pennsylvania Assembly banned the importation of slaves
  • (1720) First Catholic congregation organized in Philadelphia
  • (1731) Benjamin Franklin opened the first American library
  • (1737) Pennsylvania took over a large portion of Indian lands, (Going Purchase)
  • (1744) Benjamin Franklin established the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia
  • (1750) Benjamin Franklin’s kite used to fix that lightning is a form of electricity
  • (1752) Benjamin Franklin tested the lightning rod; The Liberty Bell arrives in Philadelphia
  • (1754) French and Indian War started; George Washington claimed the first victory at Mount Laurel; Lenape Indians attacked Mission Gnadenhutten, killed 11 white people
  • (1754 – 1763) French and Indian War
  • (1755) General Graddock’s British troops massacred near Monongahela
  • (1758) General John Forbes led the British forces in capturing Fort Duquesne
  • (1763) Indians rose up against the British colonies
  • (1767) Boundary between Maryland, Pennsylvania established, called the Mason-Dixon line
  • (1773) Philadelphia did not allow entry to tea ships
  • (1774) First Continental Congress met secretly in Philadelphia; protested UK measures taxes
  • (1775) Second Continental Congress met, George Washington named supreme commander; postal system for established colonies, Benjamin Franklin First Postmaster General
  • (1776) A committee of the Second Continental Congress, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut (the “Committee of Five”) was formed to draft a declaration of independence from Great Britain. The resulting Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia; Pennsylvania established the Commonwealth of Nations; Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag
  • (1777 – 1778) British troops occupied Philadelphia; General George Washington (America’s first president) and his bloodied and battle-worn Continental Army wintered in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This tactical decision provided a much needed rest and retraining period, and after six months in the camp his highly motivated and revitalized army marched out of the Valley Forge to defeat the British in battle after battle.
  • (1777) United States Congress left Philadelphia, moved to York
  • (1780) Pennsylvania first claims to abolish slavery
  • (1787) Pennsylvania second state to ratify the American Constitution
  • (1790 – 1800) the capital of Philadelphia, USA.
  • (1792) Philadelphia cobblers formed first union
  • (1793) Yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia killed approximately 2,000
  • (1794) Whiskey Rebellion happened – oppose taxes on distilled alcohol

1800s

  • (1812) Harrisburg became state capital
  • (1835) Liberty Bell cracked while being rung for Chief Justice John Marshall
  • (1840s) The Chained Convicts, the earliest Playboy Club, founded

Pennsylvania History