Forty-One Percent of Pa. Historic Markers Are in Rural Areas


February 7, 2019

[Photo by Shaun Marron,]

A photograph of a Pennsylvania state marker found in West Chester, Pennsylvania. There are 2,483 historical markers, 41 percent of which are in rural areas and 59 percent of which are in urban areas.

Those blue roadside markers with gold lettering scattered around Pennsylvania are signs that history is alive and well in the commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) established the historical marker program to recognize and celebrate the state's history. These historical markers tell the tale of the person, place or event that made history in that spot.

According to PHMC data, there are 2,483 historical markers, 41 percent of which are in rural areas and 59 percent of which are in urban areas.

An informal classification of these markers indicates that 23 percent of the markers in rural areas and 30 percent of the markers in urban areas highlight the accomplishments of individuals or families. Examples of this type of marker in rural areas include Joseph Priestley, 18th Century scientist and Rear Admiral Robert Edwin Peary, arctic explorer.

In rural areas, 19 percent of the markers recognize towns, communities, and settlements. In urban areas, 11 percent of the markers recognize these places. Examples of these types of markers in rural areas include Pithole City, an oil boomtown in Venango County; Kuskusaies Towns, Native American settlements in Lawrence County; and Ole Bull's Colony, an immigrant community in Potter County.

There is a higher percent of signs in rural areas (12 percent) highlighting transportation (highways, bridges, canals) than in urban areas (7 percent). Examples of these markers in rural areas are the Switchback Railroad, the Sinnemahoning Path, and Dingman's Ferry.

According to PHMC's database, the earliest marker was dedicated in 1914 (Fort McCord in Franklin County). Seven signs were dedicated in 2018. Examples of the more recent markers are Dewey's Sit-in in Philadelphia, and George H. Earle III in Delaware County.

The average dedication date for rural markers was 1963. The average dedication date for urban markers was 13 years later in 1976.

More information is available at

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in "Rural Perspectives," November/December 2018, published by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

The center is a bipartisan legislative agency that works with the legislature, educators, state and federal executive branch agencies, and national, statewide, regional and local organizations to maximize resources and strategies that can better serve Pennsylvania's nearly 3.5 million rural residents.


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