Groundhog Day- Capitol Style!

A look at the history of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Punxsutawney Area Groundhog Polka Club Event by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

Groundhog Day is a popular cultural event in Pennsylvania that happens every February 2nd. If the groundhog sees its shadow that means six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow that means an early spring.

Stuffed animal:Punxsutawney Phil 2005 (2005) by Ty Inc.The Strong National Museum of Play

History of Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day, originally known as Candlemas Day, has roots in Europe as it’s the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Germans used a hedgehog to determine the status of an upcoming spring. A groundhog was used later.

Gobbler's Knob by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

The Start of Punxsutawney Phil

In 1886, the Punxsutawney newspapers printed about the upcoming event. This is when people started to make the annual trek to Gobbler’s Knob to see whether there would be six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Punxsutawney Phil soon became an iconic figure in Pennsylvania!

Speech (20th Century) by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

A speech given on the House floor by Rep. Sam Smith on the 100th anniversary of Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day Poem (21st Century) by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

A poem that was read before Punxsutawney Phil predicted the weather.

Groundhog Celebration House Floor Groundhog Celebration House Floor by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

Other towns soon adopted their own “groundhog” and started their own traditions each year. Other famous groundhogs are Octoraro Orphie (Lancaster),  Mount Joy Minnie (Lancaster), Dover Doug (York), and Poor Richard (York).

Pictured: Representatives with Phil

Samuel Smith Picture, House Archives, From the collection of: Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives
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John Barley Picture, House Archives, From the collection of: Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives
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William Orlando Smith Picture, House Archives, From the collection of: Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives
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Samuel H. Smith, former Member from Indiana and Jefferson Counties (1987-2014), was from Punxsutawney.  John E. Barley, former Member from Lancaster County (1985-2002), represented the area where Octorara Orphie resides. William Orlando Smith, former Member from Jefferson County (1889- 1898), was a well-known newspaper owner and editor. One of his newspapers, the Punxsutawney Spirit, is credited with first reporting Groundhog Day in 1886.

Groundhog Day Book (20th Century) by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

A memorabilia program from Groundhog Day highlighting celebrations from 1886 to 1992.

Punxsutawney Event by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

Rep. Sam Smith with locals at the Punxsutawney celebration.

Presentation of Punsutawney Phil Flag by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

An early photo of a celebration of Groundhog Day on the House Floor.

Punxsatawney Phil Bus Punxsutawney Phil Bus, Representative Samuel H. Smith, From the collection of: Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives
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Punxsatawney Phil Bus Punxsutawney Phil Bus, Representative Samuel H. Smith, From the collection of: Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives
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Punxsatawney Phil Bus Punsutawney Phil Bus, Representative Samuel H. Smith, From the collection of: Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives
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Phil comes to Harrisburg. Here is a parade welcoming him to the Pennsylvania Capitol.

Groundhog Celebration House Floor Groundhog Celebration House Floor by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

Representatives Paul Costa and Michael Diven posing for a picture with Phil.

Groundhog Cookie List (21st Century) by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

Representative Sam Smith was well known for his “Spicy Groundhog Cookies” he handed to Members and staff every February. Here is his list of how many dozen he made every year.

Groundhog Mascot (20th Century) by Representative Samuel H. SmithPennsylvania House of Representatives Archives

Groundhog Day is a Pennsylvania tradition, and the House is no exception! The House has embraced it's famous mammal for annual celebrations!

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