Essential Pittsburgh
4:25 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Preserving Pennsylvania’s 333-Year-Old Birth Certificate

"Charter Day" was first celebrated in 1953 when Governor John Fine declared the official date March 14th.
"Charter Day" was first celebrated in 1953 when Governor John Fine declared the official date March 14th.
Credit Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Over ten thousand people visited historic sites in the Commonwealth this week to celebrate Pennsylvania’s history. This year marks the 333 birthday of the Pennsylvania Charter given by King Charles of Great Britain to William Penn on March 4, 1681.

Howard Pollman, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, says the Charter is meticulously preserved at the State Museum in Harrisburg and reveals much about the zeitgeist of the era. 

“It’s a fascinating document,” Pollman explains. He says the manuscript, which is written on animal hide parchment in iron ink, is kept in a temperature-controlled vault and dictates the terms of the exchange to William Penn. King Charles gave Penn the Commonwealth in exchange for a war debt and it describes a state based on religious tolerance and democratic government.

To further celebrate Pennsylvania history, Pollman suggests visiting the State Museum in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum in Strasburg, or Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville.