Intercourse, Pennsylvania

Intercourse, Pennsylvania

Admit it.

You've snickered at least once in your life at the mention of certain, let's say, provocative town names in Lancaster County.

You know, Bird-in-Hand (*giggity*) Blue Ball (*giggity giggity*) and Intercourse (*giggity giggity giggity *). Oh, and let's not forget about honorable mentions Fertility, Paradise, Mount Joy and, of course, mispronunciations of Lititz.

Ah, yes.

Lancaster County has provided abundantly to those in the world with an affinity for sophomoric humor. 

A quick Google search can back that up.

Intercourse, Pa

In this episode of the 'Cleveland Show,' main character Cleveland thinks about what life would be like without him. The scene cuts to the 'Quagmire Show,' set to the tune of the 'Cleveland Show,' a running joke of character Glenn Quagmire's jealousy about not getting a spinoff show of 'Family Guy.' Quagmire is best known for his hypersexuality and his catchphrase, "Giggity."

All joking aside, have you ever wondered how these towns got their notorious names?

Here's the uncensored history of three town names.


When tourists visit Lancaster County, they often wind up here. Some scenes from the 1985 movie "Witness," featuring Harrison Ford, were filmed in front of the now-shuttered business W.L. Zimmerman & Sons.

But the popular village was not always known as Intercourse. 

Formerly known as Cross Keys, the village was founded in 1754 and named after a tavern established the same year. 

It wasn't until 1814 that the name was changed to Intercourse. It was a more, let's say, genteel time when the word meant something quite different than it does today. 

How Intercourse was decided upon is a bit of a mystery, but there are a few theories.

Theory No. 1

An old racetrack was once located east of the village along Old Philadelphia Pike, according The entrance to the track was referred to as “Entercourse,” which could have gradually became Intercourse. 

Theory No. 2

The town may have been named after its location at the intersection — or "intercourse" — of roads known today as routes 340 and 772. 

The Old King's Highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh — now Old Philadelphia Pike — ran east and west through the center of the town. The road from Wilmington, Delaware to Erie intersected in the middle, according to 

Theory No. 3

Back in the day, the word “intercourse” was commonly used to describe the “fellowship” and “social interaction and support” shared in the community of faith. This camaraderie was woven into the identity of the community and may have influenced the naming of the town. 

And believe it or not, another Intercourse exists in the United States.

The unincorporated community of Intercourse, Alabama is located at a crossroads in Sumter County. 


Bird-In-Hand sign

The legend of this village's name dates back to 1734 when two men surveying the Colonial highway between Philadelphia and Lancaster found themselves at a tavern/inn by a Conestoga wagon stop. 

A book produced for Bird-in-Hand’s 250th anniversary in 1984 had this to say about the history of the town's name:

"The pike was being laid out in order to connect Lancaster with a direct route to Philadelphia. A discussion took place between two road surveyors as to whether they should stop at their present location or go on to Lancaster to spend the night.

"One of them said, ’A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ The other surveyor followed this bit of advice and both remained at what became known as the Bird-in-Hand Inn."

It adds:

"It is known that the sign in front of the inn once portrayed a man with a bird in his hand and a bush nearby in which two birds were perched."

Blue Ball

Blue Ball Town sign

The town two miles northeast of New Holland got its name from the Blue Ball Hotel, built more than 200 years ago. 

In the early 1700s, John Wallace, an Irishman, built a small building at the intersection of two Indian trails — French Creek Path (Route 23) and Paxtang (Route 322).

He hung a blue ball out front and called it "The Sign of the Blue Ball."

Locals began calling Earl Town — the original town name — Blue Ball after the inn. So in 1833, Earl Town officially changed its name to Blue Ball. Years later during Prohibition, the inn changed its name to Blue Ball Hotel.

The inn, which was located at the southeast corner of the intersection of routes 23 and 322, was torn down in 1997.

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