After 1861, Pennsylvania's influence on national politics diminished gradually, but its industrial complex grew rapidly. 

The Civil War
During the Civil War, Pennsylvania played an important role in preserving the Union. Southern forces invaded Pennsylvania three times by way of the Cumberland Valley, a natural highway from Virginia to the North. Pennsylvania shielded the other northeastern states. 

Pennsylvania's industrial enterprise and natural resources were essential factors in the economic strength of the northern cause. Its railroad system, iron and steel industry, and agricultural wealth were vital to the war effort. The shipbuilders of Pennsylvania contributed to the strength of the navy and merchant marine.

Nearly 350,000 Pennsylvanians served in the Union forces. At the beginning, Lincoln's call for 14 regiments of volunteers was answered by 25 regiments. In May 1861, the Assembly, at Curtin's suggestion, created the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps of 15 regiments enlisted for three years' service. They were mustered into the Army of the Potomac after the first Battle of Bull Run, and thousands of other Pennsylvanians followed them. Camp Curtin at Harrisburg was one of the major troop concentration centers of the war.

In June 1863, General Robert E. Lee turned his 75,000 men northward on a major invasion of Pennsylvania. The state called up reserves and volunteers for emergency duty. At Pittsburgh, the citizens fortified the surrounding hills, and at Harrisburg, fortifications were thrown up on both sides of the Susquehanna. Confederate forces captured Carlisle and advanced to within three miles of Harrisburg; the bridge at Wrightsville was burned to prevent their crossing. These outlying forces were recalled when the Union army under General George G. Meade met Lee's army at Gettysburg. In a bitterly fought engagement on the first three days of July, the Union army threw back the Confederate forces, a major turning point in the struggle to save the Union.

In 1864, in retaliation for Union raids on Virginia, a Confederate force under General John McCausland advanced to Chambersburg and threatened to burn the town unless a large ransom was paid. The citizens refused, and Chambersburg was burned on July 20, leaving two-thirds of its people homeless and causing damage of almost $2 million.

The Constitution of 1874
The fourth constitution of the Commonwealth was partly a result of a nationwide reform movement in the 1870s and partly a result of specific corrections to the previous constitution. It provided for the popular election of judges, the state treasurer, and the auditor general. It created an office of lieutenant governor and a department of internal affairs, which combined several offices under an elected secretary. The head of the public school system received the title of superintendent of public instruction. The General Assembly was required to provide efficient public education for no less than $1 million per year. The governor's term was lengthened from three to four years, but he could no longer succeed himself and he was empowered to veto individual items within appropriations bills. The membership of the General Assembly was increased, but its powers were limited by a prohibition of special or local legislation about certain specified subjects, a constitutional debt limit, and other restrictions. Sessions of the General Assembly became biennial.

The First World War
Pennsylvania's resources and manpower were of great value to the war effort of 1917-1918. The shipyards of Philadelphia and Chester were decisive in maintaining maritime transport. Pennsylvania's mills and factories provided a large part of the war materials for the nation. Nearly three thousand separate firms held contracts for war supplies of various types. Pennsylvanians subscribed to nearly three billion dollars worth of Liberty and Victory Bonds, and paid well over a billion dollars in federal taxes during the war.

Large areas of the northern and western parts of the state were unsettled or thinly populated in 1800. By the time of the Civil War, with the exception of the northern tier counties, population was scattered throughout the state. There was increased urbanization, although rural life remained strong and agriculture involved large numbers of people. The immigrant tide continued alter the Civil War and brought a change in the composition of the population. While most of the state's pre-1861 population was composed of ethnic groups from northern Europe such as the English, Irish, Scotch-Irish and Germans, the later period brought increased numbers of Slavic, Italian, Finn, Scandinavian, and Jewish immigrants. At the height of this "new immigration," between 1900 and 1910, the Commonwealth witnessed the largest population increase of any decade in its history. African-American migration from the South intensified after 1917, when World War I curtailed European immigration, and again during World War II. By World War II, almost five percent of the state's population was African-American. In 1940, the Commonwealth was the second largest state in the nation with a population two-thirds that of New York.  


The manufacture of steel and iron products was the largest single industry. The lives of Andrew Carnegie, Henry C. Frick, Charles M. Schwab, Eugene Grace and other "iron men" of Pennsylvania tell the story of modern American business. Concentrated for the most part in western Pennsylvania, but with important centers also at Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Lewistown, Carlisle, and Morrisville, Pennsylvania's steel industry furnished the rails for the nation's railway empire, the structural steel for its modern cities, and the armament for national defense. In the 19th century, textiles and clothing manufacturing, especially worsteds and silk, grew from a base in Philadelphia, so that the state led the nation in production by 1900. Food processing grew into a major industry; 1905 was the first year of the Hershey Chocolate factory and the incorporation of the H. J. Heinz Co.  During this period, Pennsylvania dominated the manufacture of railroad equipment.

Lumber, Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Coal
Pennsylvania has exercised leadership in the lumber, petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries. Many of the natural stands of timber were exhausted before conservation concepts were recognized. In the 1860s, the state led the nation in lumber production, but by 1900, it had dropped to fourth.

Following the discovery of oil near Titusville in 1859, the production and marketing of Pennsylvania oil grew. America’s first oil well was built in Northern Pennsylvania. The oil-producing counties extended from Tioga west to Crawford and south to the West Virginia line. By 1891, Warren, Venango and McKean Counties established leadership in production. Once practical methods of transmitting and burning natural gas were developed, Pennsylvania became a leading producer in that area.

Anthracite coal was the main fuel used to smelt iron until the 1880s, when the manufacture of coke from bituminous coal was developed to a degree that it replaced anthracite. Coke was used both to smelt iron and to make steel from iron. But production of anthracite continued to increase because it was used for heating and other purposes.

The prosperous farms of the Pennsylvania Germans have always been a bulwark of our agricultural economy. The settlement and development of western and northern Pennsylvania initially occurred because of agriculture. Cereals and livestock continued to be the mainstays of the farmer. After 1880, the pattern of increasing total area farmed in Pennsylvania, which began in the colonial period, ended. Total farm acreage has declined ever since, but this trend has been outweighed by improved farming methods.


Pennsylvania pioneered in early rail development. By 1860, railroad mileage had increased to 2,598, and the Reading, Lehigh and Pennsylvania systems were developing. The Pennsylvania Railroad, chartered in 1846, reached Pittsburgh in 1852. After 1865, Pennsylvania extended its lines to New York, Washington, Buffalo, Chicago, and St. Louis, becoming one of the great trunk-line railroads of the nation, and developed a network of subsidiary lines within the state. The Reading and Lehigh Valley systems also expanded to become carriers of freight and important links in the industrial economy of the Middle Atlantic region. Numerous smaller lines were built to serve districts or special purposes.

Urban Transit
Pennsylvania has a long tradition of urban public transport, beginning with horsecars in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the 1850s. Philadelphia's first streetcar system began in 1892, and the Market Street elevated train began operation in 1907. The Market Street subway, which is still in operation, was one of the first in the nation.

Although 1,700 state-owned bridges were built before 1900, road-building activity had lapsed during the canal and railroad era. It sprang anew with the advent of the automobile. Between 1903 and 1911, Pennsylvania took the lead in creating a modern road system, establishing a department of highways, requiring automobile licenses and taking over more than 8,000 miles of highway for maintenance and improvement. The world's first "drive-in gas station" opened in Pittsburgh in 1913. By 1928, the transcontinental system of U.S.-numbered, through highways was in use in Pennsylvania, and at about the same time an expanded state-numbered system came into being. In 1931, the state took over 20,156 miles of township roads and began paving them, using light construction costing less than $7,000 a mile. In 1940, Pennsylvania opened the first high-speed, multi-lane highway in the country, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which set the pattern for modern super-highways throughout the nation.

In 1925, Philadelphia Congressman Clyde Kelly introduced the Airmail Act, which set the American aviation industry on the road to progress. By the beginning of World War II, passenger service was still in its infancy, although the very reliable DC-3 plane had been developed. Hog Island was developed in the late 1930s, with city and federal WPA assistance, and became the Philadelphia International Airport.

In 1857, the Normal School Act was passed, and a separate department was created for the supervision of public schools. In 1860, there were only six public high schools in the state. Beginning in 1887, the Assembly passed general laws authorizing the establishment of high schools. They had enrolled only 2 percent of the public school population when the state began to appropriate money for high schools in 1895. Ten years later, the system was firmly established. By 1895, every school district was authorized to establish a high school. Initially high schools offered only two-year courses. Between 1913 and 1920, the state assumed control of all the normal schools, which were given college status in 1927. Probably the most important school legislation since 1834 was the Edmonds Act in 1921, which established minimum salary standards and qualifications for teachers and county superintendents, centralized teacher certification, set up a state Council of Education, provided for consolidation of rural schools, increased state aid to education, and made other improvements.

In 1790, there were only three institutions of university or college rank. Today, there are almost two hundred institutions of higher education, a majority of which were founded after 1865. Most higher education before 1900 was sponsored by churches. The development of higher education for women, the broadening of the curriculum, and the decline of purely denominational control were important trends of the 20th century.

The Second World War
In World War II, 1.25 million Pennsylvanians served in the armed forces, or about one-eighth of the population. Also, one out of every seven members of the armed forces in World War II was a Pennsylvanian. The chief of staff, General of the Army George C. Marshall, was a native of Uniontown, and the commander of the Army Air Forces was General of the Army Henry H. Arnold, born in Gladwyne.

Altogether, there were 130 generals and admirals from Pennsylvania. More Medals of Honor were awarded to Pennsylvanians than to citizens of any other state. There were 40 military and naval installations in Pennsylvania, including two large camps, Indiantown Gap and Camp Reynolds. All the Army's doctors received training at Carlisle Barracks, and the Navy's photographic reconnaissance pilots were instructed at the Harrisburg Airport. The Philadelphia Navy Yard built two of the world's largest battleships and many lesser vessels.

Pennsylvania's industrial resources made it the "Arsenal of America." Planes, tanks, armored cars, guns and shells poured out of its factories. Ships were launched in the Delaware and Ohio rivers and on Lake Erie. Steady streams of war goods flowed over its railroads and highways. Pennsylvania oil lubricated the machines of war, and its coal kept the steel mills going. Food from its fields fed war workers and soldiers.

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