Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Week 9: State - Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, arguably the most historically important state in the founding of the United States, is known as the Keystone State, due both to its central location among the original Thirteen Colonies, and also because of the number of important American documents signed in the state (including the Declaration of Independence). Philadelphia even served as the temporary capital of the United States from 1790–1800 while the Federal City was under construction in the District of Columbia. Pennsylvania also played a large role in the American Civil War, and the Battle of Gettysburg, fought in and around the town of Gettysburg from July 1–3, 1863, was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the war, and is often described as the war's turning point. The largest city in the state is Philadelphia (1.5 million people as of 2010), the City of Brotherly Love, and the fifth most populous city in the United States. Philadelphia was the site of the first medical school in the country (founded 1765 at the college of Philadelphia), the first nationally chartered bank (the Bank of North America, founded 1781), the first art school and museum (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts founded 1805), and the first zoo in the United States (opened 1874). Today Philadelphia has more public art than any other American city, and has played a prominent role in popular music, hosting the American end of the 1985 Live Aid concert at John F. Kennedy Stadium and the 2005 Live 8 concert at Ben Franklin Parkway, named, as with the Ben Franklin Bridge, after Philadelphia's most famous resident, who ran away to the city at the age of 17. Pennsylvania is also the snack food capital of the world. It leads all other states in the manufacture of pretzels and potato chips, and the U.S. chocolate industry is centered in the town of Hershey which, orginally named Derry Church, was renamed Hershey in 1906 after the growing popularity of Hershey's Chocolate. The second largest city is Pittsburgh, known as "The Steel City" for its history as a steel manufacturing base, and the capital is Harrisburg.

Of films set in the state those set in Philadelphia include (obviously!) Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Story, as well as Rocky and all its sequels (its most famous sequence being when Stallone runs up the long flight of steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest art museums in the United States). Adventureland and Flashdance are both set in Pittsburgh while George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and its many sequels are all set in and around the city. Outside of the main cities The Deer Hunter is set in Clairton, Allegheny County, Groundhog Day is set in Punxsutawney during its now famous Febuary 2nd holiday of the same name, while the US version of the popular television comedy The Office is set in the real town of Scranton. Pennsylvania is also the birthplace of author John Updike who I have already come across once on this trip in Rhode Island when I dismissed his The Witches of Eastwick as the book I have enjoyed the least so far. However, I have decided to return for a second go at this writer with his breakthrough 1960 novel Rabbit, Run.

Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is Updike's most famous creation, featuring in four novels and one novella, all of which take place in the fictional city of Brewer, Pennsylvania - a city which shares many characteristics with Reading where Updike was born and raised. The quote on the back from the Observer states "It is sexy, in bad taste, violent and basically cynical". Sounds great.

Review to follow this/next week...

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