Long-time readers have probably already answered correctly that they are all places in western Pennsylvania.
We have not even ventured into the eastern half of the state, where we also find Dublin and Belfast and Bangor, and Lancaster and Reading and York and Shrewsbury, and Hanover and Hamburg and Heidelberg, and Bethlehem and Nazareth and Emmaus, and even the New Jerusalem.
Also in the east we find a Wyoming Valley. And it may surprise Westerners to discover that the state of Wyoming—this is absolutely true, and you can look it up for yourself—was named for the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, because their new home reminded the early settlers so much of Scranton. (It is an even more remarkable fact that the populations of the two Wyomings, the state in the West and the Scranton metropolitan area, are nearly identical, and you can look that up, too.)
This subject came up the other day when one of Dr. Boli’s frequent readers was remarking on the names of places in Pennsylvania. Her hypothesis was that the name of any conceivable place can also be found somewhere in Pennsylvania.
So far Dr. Boli has had a hard time disproving this hypothesis.
This is true in spite of Pennsylvania’s well-known habit of recycling names for townships. You must give the name of its county with the name of the township, so that when you mention Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, nobody thinks you mean Elizabeth Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There is also no rule against recycling names in city neighborhoods, so there is an Allentown in the eastern part of the state and an Allentown in Pittsburgh, and yes it does cause confusion every day.
It is also true in spite of the fact that Pennsylvania is notorious for names that occur nowhere else, and could not occur to a sane mind, from Acmetonia to Zelienople. A little education is a dangerous thing in a town founder. What shall we call our new oil boomtown? think the fathers of a new settlement. There is already an Oil City in the Pennsylvania oil country—but there is no Oleopolis. Well, there is now! And now that those two names are both taken, well, there’s always Petrolia.
And it is also true in spite of the Pennsylvanian predilection for abstract concepts as names of towns. Industry, Economy, Prosperity, Amity, Freedom, Harmony, Pleasant Unity—all these abstractions are also places in western Pennsylvania.
In spite of all these things, Pennsylvania is stuffed with familiar names in unfamiliar contexts. The graduates of California University and Indiana University will tell you that they always have some explaining to do. When Pennsylvanians want to make distinctions, they have to be very specific: for example, Pittsburghers will refer to Washington, Pennsylvania, as “Little Worshington” to distinguish it from the District of Columbia. (On the other hand, once you get close enough to Little Worshington, then it is just Worshington, and the District of Columbia is Big Worshington.)
This seems like a good project to turn the readers loose on. Get out your maps. Which famous cities and places can you not find in Pennsylvania? And which names pop up that you didn’t expect to find there? And finally, what is your favorite unlikely Pennsylvania name, and can you do better than “Punxsutawney”?