New Wales = Pennsylvania

PennMost Americans are taught that Pennsylvania, one of the earliest American states to be settled by Europeans, was named after the Quaker William Penn or his father, Admiral Penn. It is not so. Had William Penn, the Quaker leader, not ignored the advice of his secretary, the new colony would have been called New Wales.In the late 17th century, many Welsh emigrants braved the horrors of Atlantic passage to flee religious persecution. The Welsh Quakers, in particular, sought lands where they could practice their own form of religion and live under their own laws in a kind of Welsh Barony. One of their leaders, surgeon and lawmaker Dr. Griffith Owen, who came to the colonies in 1684, induced William Penn to set apart some of his land grant for the settlement. The project envisioned as a kind of "Holy Experiment," involved an oral understanding with William Penn and the Society of Friends (a pact made in England before the Welsh sailed to the New World). The oral understanding set aside 40,000 acres of land (some sources give 30,000) in what is now southeastern Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, this agreement was never put into writing and later became a source of bitter controversy between Penn and the Welsh Quakers. 
Even before Penn's arrival to take up lands granted to him by the Duke of York in payment of a debt to his father, Welsh settlements had begun to spread out on the west side of the Schuylkill River around the nucleus of the new city of Philadelphia. However, in 1690, in this so-called "Welsh Tract," the Colonial government abolished the civil authority of the Welsh Quaker meetings in order to set up a regular township government. William Penn himself refused the legality of the Welsh Quakers' appeal for self-government. 
To the bitter disappointment of many of the early Welsh settlers, even the name of the colony was changed. In a letter written one day after the granting of the Charter, Penn wrote to his friend Robert Turner, giving particulars of the naming of the new province: 

This day, my country was confirmed to me under the great seal of England, with privileges, by the name of Pennsylvania, a name the King would give it in honor of my father. I chose New Wales, being as this, a pretty, hilly country, but Penn being Welsh for head as in Penmanmoire (sic), in Wales, and Penrith, in Cumberland, and Penn, in Buckinghamshire . . . called this Pennsylvania, which is the high or head woodlands; for I proposed, when the secretary, a Welshman, refused to have it called New Wales, Sylvania and they added Penn to it, and though I opposed it and went to the King to have it struck out and altered he said it was past . . nor could twenty guineas move the under-secretary to vary the name

Thus Pennsylvania was named after a Welsh word for head and not, as the usual history books have it, after William Penn himself or after his father, Admiral Penn. (The cunning Penn must have known that the Welsh word for "head" is "pen" with a single "n" thus we have to admire his duplicity.)