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What Is the State Motto of Pennsylvania?

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The Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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  • Written By: Erin Hanson
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  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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The state motto of Pennsylvania is the phrase "Virtue, Liberty and Independence." It was first introduced and displayed as part of a state coat of arms that was designed in the late 1770s by a Pennsylvania iron merchant named Caleb Lownes. It is likely that the choice of words for the state motto of Pennsylvania was heavily influenced by the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. "Virtue, Liberty and Independence" was adopted in 1875 as the official state motto of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's official title is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The title of "commonwealth" quite literally means "for the common weal," or for the good of all the people. The state motto of Pennsylvania and reflects the desire for the people to work together as a whole using the values of virtue, liberty and independence. A neighboring state, Delaware, has a state motto that is nearly identical: "Liberty and Independence."

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The state motto of Pennsylvania is expressed in the official state coat of arms, which also appears on the state flag. After Lownes designed a coat of arms that bore a banner with the motto in the late 1770s, it was modified and redesigned several times before the 1870s, when the Pennsylvania state legislature decided to choose an official version. The coat of arms that was officially adopted in 1875 was almost the same as Lownes' original design. As part of the official state coat of arms, "Virtue, Liberty and Independence" became the official state motto at the same time.

Pennsylvania's state flag has a field of blue behind the state's coat of arms, which includes a shield that features a merchant sailing ship, a plow and three sheaves of wheat. These symbols represent the state's commerce, its industry and its resources. A black horse is on each side of the shield, and a bald eagle is perched above it. Under the shield are an olive branch and a banner that bears the state motto of Pennsylvania.

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