In the early 1600s the English, Dutch, and Swedes disputed the right to the region of Pennsylvania. Explorations were confined to the Delaware River vicinity, where fur trading with the Native Americans was carried on. The original permanent settlement was established on Tinicum Island (1643) in the Delaware River by Johan Printz, governor of New Sweden, and was followed in the succeeding years by the neighboring colony of Uppland.

Swedish jurisdiction was short-lived as the Dutch, operating from their stronghold in New Amsterdam, succeeded in gaining control of the Middle Atlantic region in 1655. In turn the Dutch were overpowered by the British forces of Col. Richard Nicolls, acting for the duke of York (later James II), and in 1664 the British took over the Delaware area. The duke of York remained in control until 1681, when, in payment of a royal debt, William Penn was granted proprietary rights to almost the whole of what is now Pennsylvania, and, in addition, leased the three Lower Counties.