Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Punxsutawney Phil seemed a bit confused on Saturday September 11, 2004, when his handler Bill Deeley held him up to admire the newly-unveiled state historical marker commemorating Groundhog Day. Surely it was much too early to prognosticate the winter weather!

Unbeknownst to Phil, S.Thomas Curry, director of the Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogi­cal Society, had nominated Groundhog Day for the marker installed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The dedication of the marker on Gob­bler’s Knob on that late summer day celebrated a Punxsutawney, Jefferson County, tradition dating to 1899.

Folklife historian Don Yoder (see “Meet Don Yoder, Dean of Folklife Scholars” by Kyle R. Weaver in the summer 2006 edition) contends the roots of Groundhog Day – cele­brated on February 2, the ancient Christ­ian festival of Candlemas­ – were brought to the colonies from Eu­rope, particularly Germany, where Phil’s cousin, the badger – and in earlier times, a sacred bear – was believed to ?predict winter’s end. Ironically, fair weather on Groundhog Day presages an extended winter while inclement weather heralds an early spring.

Although rooted in folklore, the origin of Groundhog Day on Gob­bler’s Knob was – and remains – in large part a creation of the media. In 1886, Clymer H. Freas (1867-1942), editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit, first referred to Feb­ruary 2 as Groundhog Day. The groundhog was ultimately crowned “Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire. By 1899, Freas and several area residents had organized the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The newspaper­man promoted Punx­sutawney’s reputation as “Weather Capital of the World” and home of the groundhog, and chose Gobbler’s Knob as the location for the wood­chuck’s yearly prediction.

Punxsutawney’s famous furry forecaster is known as Phil, but he (and she) has gone by various monikers, including Wiley William Woodchuck (1915) and Frau Groundhog (1952). The earliest prophet was known simply as Bre’r Groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil has appeared on the Today show, made a state visit to the White House to meet President Ronald Reagan, and was immortalized in the 1993 motion picture Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray.

From the first modest obser­vance of Groundhog Day to today’s fren­zied celebration attended by numerous media outlets and thousands of specta­tors, Phil and his prede­cessors have been enchanting people from near and far for over a century. “Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day is now celebrated by Americans in at least twenty-three states and by Canadians in several provinces,” Don Yoder reports. “It has become international and is con­stantly growing.”

To learn more, visit the official Web site of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club at, or enjoy Yoder’s Groundhog Day, published in 2003 by Stackpole Books, Mechanics­burg.