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William Penn (1644-1718) was an English Quaker who was given lands in America in lieu of money owed to him by the British government. He used the land to set up the colony (now state) of Pennsylvania, devoted to religious toleration. Penn called it a 'holy experiment' where people could worship as they wished. Penn also founded the city of Philadelphia, 'the city of brotherly love'. Many Quaker and other religious dissidents emigrated there. Also known as the Society of Friends, the Quakers are a religious group founded in England in the mid-17th century. They have always believed that men and women are equal so women were always encouraged to preach.

In 1682 the legal system of Pennsylvania was established. In 1683 Penn signed a treaty with the Native Americans. In the same year the first German colonists settled there. Penn helped poor people to settle in the new colony and many English, Scottish, Irish and German settlers quickly moved there. Pennsylvania, along with the other northern colonies, formed the area called New England and grew rapidly.

The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg, but the largest city is Philadelphia, where the Thirteen Colonies' Declaration of Independence from Britain was signed in 1776. Pennsylvania entered into the Union on 12 December 1787 and today has a population of 12,040,000 and an area of 117,348 sq km. The state flower is the mountain laurel.

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