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"stone in the middle of an arch, which holds up the others," 1630s, from key (n.1) in figurative sense of "that which holds together other parts" + stone. Figurative sense is from 1640s. Pennsylvania was called the Keystone State because of its position (geographical and political) in the original American confederation, between northern states and southern ones. Keystone cops were the bumbling police in the slapstick silent movies produced by Keystone Company, formed by Canadian-born U.S. film director Mack Sennett (1884-1960) in 1912.