PA Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC)
Pennsylvania shares with Virginia, Kentucky and Massachusetts the designation "Commonwealth." The word is of English derivation and refers to the common "weal" or well-being of the public. The State Seal of Pennsylvania does not use the term, but it is a traditional, official designation used in referring to the state, and legal processes are in the name of the Commonwealth. In 1776, our first state constitution referred to Pennsylvania as both "Commonwealth" and "State," a pattern of usage that was perpetuated in the constitutions of 1790, 1838, 1874, and 1968. Today, "State" and "Commonwealth" are correctly used interchangeably. The distinction between them has been held to have no legal significance.
The word "keystone" comes from architecture and refers to the central, wedge-shaped stone in an arch, which holds all the other stones in place. The application of the term "Keystone State" to Pennsylvania cannot be traced to any single source. It was commonly accepted soon after 1800.
At a Jefferson Republican victory rally in October 1802, Pennsylvania was toasted as "the keystone in the federal union," and in the newspaper Aurora the following year the state was referred to as "the keystone in the democratic arch." The modern persistence of this designation is justified in view of the key position of Pennsylvania in the economic, social, and political development of the United States.
The Whitetail Deer is the official state animal, as enacted by the General Assembly on October 2, 1959.
The Ruffed Grouse is the state game bird, as enacted by the General Assembly on June 22, 1931. The Pennsylvania ruffed grouse, sometimes called the partridge, is distinguished by its plump body, feathered legs, and mottled reddish-brown color. This protective coloring makes it possible for the ruffed grouse to conceal itself in the wilds.
The Great Dane is the state dog, as enacted by the General Assembly on August 15, 1965.
The Brook Trout is the state fish, as enacted by the General Assembly on March 9, 1970.
The Mountain Laurel is the state flower, as enacted by the General Assembly on May 5, 1933. The mountain laurel is in full bloom in mid-June, when Pennsylvania's woodlands are filled with its distinctive pink flower.
The Firefly is the state insect, as enacted by the General Assembly on April 10, 1974. Act 130 of December 5, 1988, designated the particular species of firefly "Poturis Pennsylvanica De Geer" as the official state insect.
Milk is the official state beverage, as enacted by the General Assembly on April 29, 1982.
The Hemlock is the state tree, as enacted by the General Assembly on June 23, 1931.
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