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William Penn was the son of an admiral in the Royal Navy. In his twenties, Penn converted to Quakerism, abandoning the Anglican Church of his family.

Stevie Wolf is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She says Penn's conversion was dramatic:

"His family considers him a real oddball. It's like some of the children of the upper class that become anti-war protesters and stuff during the Vietnam era."
In England, Penn fought against the religious persecution of fellow Quakers. William Krashatis is the director of public programs at the Chester County Historical Society:

"He wrote chronically in defense of the Society of Friends, defending their theology to the Church of England, to the Anglican Church."
In 1681, King Charles the Second gave Penn land in America to pay off a family debt. And Penn's ambition shifted to founding a colony in the New World.

William Krashatis:

"His intentions turn from defending the religious Society of Friends, to providing a New World sanctuary for them, and coming up with a frame of government or constitution that would order this society."
The colony - nearly the size of England - was named Penn's Woods or Pennsylvania. William Penn, at age 37, became the proprietor.

Penn established a government, purchased land from the Lenape Indians, and tried to create a religiously tolerant society in the City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia. The year was 1682.

But Penn believed life in the country was more wholesome than the worldly atmosphere of crowded cities, so in 1683 workmen poured the foundation of Penn's dream home, located east of Tullytown, along the Delaware River. This 8,400 acre estate was called Pennsbury.

Pennsbury was a self-sustaining plantation, with a large manor house made of brick. A separate building contained the kitchen and a bake and brew house. There were also extensive gardens, a smoke house, an icehouse, a blacksmith shop and stables.

William Krashatis says Pennsbury was well equipped:

"He even had the burglar alarm of the 17th century which was a peacock. If a peacock noticed any type of predatory animal invading the barn, it would set off a high-pitched squeal. So it was a fascinating place."
Pennsbury expressed a part of Penn that ran contrary to traditional Quaker values. Quakers considered the material world a distraction from the search for truth. And they advocated plain speech, dress, and housing.

Krashatis says Pennsbury Manor was elaborate by Quaker standards. But that made sense, considering Penn's background.

William Krashatis:

"He was raised in a high church Anglican family that was fairly affluent....and he was preparing for a military career until he became a Quaker. He was accustomed to living in London at the family estate there or in Macroom Castle. He was extremely well educated and accustomed to the very finest things in life."
Penn never could distance himself from some of the things the Quakers called vanities. Quakers embraced pacifism, yet Penn carried a sword, a habit he picked up in England that demonstrated his social status.

Penn was also sensitive about his baldness, which was the result of scarlet fever, says Krashatis:

"He couldn't grow any hair so he wore a wig, which would be considered very vain.... The early Quakers in particular were known for wearing the colors black, drab white and gray and with very little ornamentation, and yet William Penn wears net stockings, very ruffled shirts, very nicely designed frock coats, buckles on his shoes. All these things contradict the Quaker belief in simplicity."
During Penn's life, he only spent about 4 years in Pennsylvania - two of those at Pennsbury Manor.

In 1701, Penn left for England to battle his creditors. He never returned to Pennsylvania. William Penn died of a stroke in 1718.

Joel Rose, WHYY News
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