The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania: 300 Years of the Highest Court in the Commonwealth

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was established on May 22, 1722, in Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester counties, 67 years before the United States Supreme Court came into existence. It is the oldest appellate court in the nation. Its status became official as part of the Judiciary Act of 1722, separating it from the control of the royal governor. The act made significant progress in establishing...
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Pennsylvania’s Buckshot War of 1838

  Protesting election results in the United States is nothing new. Neither is storming a capitol building when results are contested. In 1838, only 55 years after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolutionary War, armed opponents confronted each other at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. Accusations had flown for days previously about which candidates should be seated in...
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Protection from Trotter Head

The document pictured here bears the following inscription: “Trotter Head, I forbid thee my house and premises. I forbid thee my horse and cow-stable, I forbid thee my bedstead, that thou mayest not breathe upon me; breathe into some other house, until thou hast ascended every hill, until thou hast counted every fencepost, and until thou hast crossed every water. And thus dear day may come again...
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William Logan Comments on William Pitt and the Stamp Act of 1765

The Stamp Act was passed by British Parliament on March 22, 1765. It was levied to help pay for debt caused by the stationing of British troops in America during the French and Indian War, the North American conflict in the global Seven Years’ War (1756–63) between France and Great Britain. The act was to take effect on November 1, 1765. It was a direct tax imposed by the British on the American...
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Col. Paul J. Evanko’s Field Notes from 9/11

The United States was changed forever on the morning of September 11, 2001, when it was attacked by members of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. One of the four airliners that was hijacked as part of the attack was United Airlines Flight 93, originally scheduled from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California. Flight 93 crashed in a field in Stonycreek Township, near Shanksville, in...
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The Manumission of Samuel Stephens

In 1783 Stuart George Dallas and his wife Elizabeth, formerly of the island of Jamaica, filed a manumission contract in Philadelphia for enslaved 12-year-old Samuel “Sammy” Stephens. George Bryan of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered a writ of habeas corpus for Samuel Stephens to be brought before him on July 1, 1786. The manumission contract, pictured here, is preserved in the Pennsylvania...
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Pennsylvania’s Ratification of the 15th Amendment

Black men in Pennsylvania were given the right to vote not once but twice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pennsylvania’s Constitution of 1776 had permitted tax-paying free Black men to vote. In 1838, however, Black suffrage became a point of high contention during a new Pennsylvania constitutional convention. Opposing groups sent various petitions to the convention advocating for and against...
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The Witch Trial of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s founder and original proprietor William Penn (1644–1718) was not only a great lawgiver but also a clever arbiter of disputes between residents of his commonwealth. His thoughtful handling of a witch trial on December 27, 1683, at a Provincial Council meeting in Philadelphia helped to prevent a crisis in Pennsylvania like the hysteria that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, only...
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Soldiers to Governors: World War II

More than 1 million Pennsylvanians served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Five of these servicemembers would later be elected as Pennsylvania’s governor. Carrying on the great American tradition of citizen-soldiers, these civilians or members of the National Guard left their homes and families to volunteer to fight for their country during a crucial period in history. The Pennsylvania...
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Butter v. Margarine

Butter and margarine have been at war since the latter was invented in France in 1869. Made from beef tallow, “oleomargarine,” as it was originally called, arrived in the United States in the 1870s. It was marketed as a cheaper and less perishable alternative to butter. This threat to butter sales led many American dairy farmers to wage campaigns against the new product in legislatures and...
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