Pennsylvania Dutch Country, also called the Deitscherei in Deitsch, refers to an area of southeastern Pennsylvania, United States that by the American Revolution had a high percentage of Pennsylvania Dutch inhabitants. Religiously, there was a large portion of Lutherans. There were also German Reformed, Moravian, Amish, Mennonite, and other German Christian sects. The term was used in the middle of the 20th century as a description of a region with a distinctive Pennsylvania Dutch culture, but in recent decades the composition of the population is changing and the phrase is used more now in a tourism context than any other.
Geographically the area referred to as Amish/Dutch country centers around the cities of Allentown, Hershey, Lancaster, Reading, and York. Pennsylvania Dutch Country encompasses the counties of Chester, Lancaster, York, Adams, Franklin, Dauphin, Lebanon, Berks, Montgomery, Bucks, Northampton, Lehigh, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union, Juniata, Mifflin, Huntingdon, Northumberland, and Centre. Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants would spread from this area outwards outside the Pennsylvania borders between the mountains along river valleys into neighboring Maryland (Washington and Frederick counties), West Virginia, New Jersey (Warren and northern Hunterdon counties), Virginia (Shenandoah Valley), and North Carolina. The larger region has been historically referred to as Greater Pennsylvania. The historic Pennsylvania Dutch diaspora in Ontario, Canada has been referred to as Little Pennsylvania.
The western counties of the region experienced industrialization as well, with Hershey Foods being the most notable example, but it was less intensive, and agriculture retained a larger share of the economy. In the middle of the 20th century, both Amish and non-Amish entrepreneurs began to promote the area as a tourist destination. Though there are still plenty of Amish attempting to follow their traditional way of life, tourism and population growth have significantly changed the appearance and cultural flavor of the area. The region is within 50 miles of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Maryland, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and has not escaped the effects of being located on the western edge of the East Coast conurbation which stretches from Washington, D.C. to New York City.
The Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites, who have resisted these urbanization efforts most successfully, have retained aspects of their 18th century way of life, including the Deitsch dialect; however, these groups have changed significantly in the last two hundred years. Nevertheless, for the Old Order groups, change has come slower, and gradually they have become more and more distinctively different as the surrounding rural and urban population of Pennsylvania has changed.
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