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10 Biggest Cities in Pennsylvania: How Well Do You Know The Keystone State?

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Incline operating in front of the downtown skyline of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Sean Pavone/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 10 Apr 2015 03:40 PM

Pennsylvania's cities include some of the oldest and most important in American history.

Here are the 10 biggest cities in Pennsylvania.

1. Philadelphia: With a population of 1.5 million, the "City of Brotherly Love" is the state's largest city and the fifth largest in America. Founded by William Penn in 1681 as a refuge for Quakers seeking to practice their faith without persecution, Philadelphia quickly grew to become the largest and most important city in the Colonies.

The Continental Congresses were held there in Independence Hall and served as the nation's informal capital during the War of Independence. After America won its independence, the Founding Fathers returned to Philadelphia to draft the Constitution that remains as America's supreme law of the land.

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Among the city's notable citizens was Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father and a polymath who was a leading, early America scientist, diplomat, inventor and politician. Once the industrial hub of America, it now is looking to information technology and service industries for its growth.

2. Pittsburgh:
With its population at just over 300,000, it is the state's second largest city. Once a dominant center for steel and glass production and energy processing, Pittsburgh, like so many other manufacturing giants, is repositioning itself as reportedly one of America's most livable and affordable places to live.

Here are some of the city's firsts: America's first commercial radio station (KDKA), Dr. Jonas Salk's development of the first polio vaccine, the first all-aluminum building, and, wait for it, the first Internet emoticon, the smiley :-) given to the world by Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Scott Fahlman.

3. Allentown: With a current population of 118,032, Allentown was once a thriving city thanks to the 19th century iron and rail booms. When the booms ended, Allentown became a center of silk production. Now, as other Rust Belt cities, Allentown is searching for a new identity.

4. Erie: Its population has declined from 2000 by 2.6 percent to 101,047 in 2012. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, the city played an important historical role in the War of 1812. Before train track gauges were standardized, Erie's importance was elevated by the city becoming the nexus of three different track gauges — broad, narrow and standard.

5. Reading:
In its early days, Reading prospered from its central location as a transportation hub for turnpikes, canals and railroads. Now with a population of 88,082, the city enjoys an economy strengthened by nearby rich farmlands.

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6. Scranton: It was Scranton's good fortune to be located on one of the world's largest hard coal deposits. Scranton entered a period of decline as coal's fortunes contracted and in 1990s, the state stepped in to pull the city back from the financial brink. With a population of 76,089, Scranton boasts of a strong revitalization.

7. Bethlehem:
Originally a pacifist Moravian community, it fell on hard times when Bethlehem Steel folded. But this city of 74,982 proudly claims a "rich colonial and industrial history" and touts a present-day "economic and cultural renaissance," according to the city's website.

8. Lancaster:
This city of 59,322 was considered in 1790 to be a candidate for the new capital of the U.S. It also was home for President James Buchanan and where F.W. Woolworth opened his first successful "5-and 10-cent" store, according to Britannica.

9. Levittown: William Levitt built this town of 52,983 as a planned residential community in the 1950s to provide affordable homes for returning World War II veterans. Unlike the state's other largest cities, its history is more recent and less pleasant: Non-whites originally were not allowed to live there and its eventual integration inflamed strong passions.

10. Harrisburg:
This city of 49,528 is the state capital. Once again, here's a city that experienced Rust Belt-like decline.

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Pennsylvania's cities include some of the oldest and most important in American history.
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