The History of Delaware
Journey Through Delaware's History and Trivia
Welcome to our Delaware history and trivia page, presented by History By Mail. Join us as we embark on a journey through the captivating past and cultural tapestry of the First State. From early settlements to the Revolutionary War and the modern era, we'll explore Delaware's hidden gems and challenge your knowledge with entertaining quizzes. Let's uncover the rich history and intriguing trivia of Delaware together.
Delaware, known as the First State, is a land of remarkable history and diverse heritage. From the indigenous Lenape people who first inhabited the land to the Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers who left their mark, Delaware holds a captivating legacy. From the historic towns of New Castle and Dover to the vibrant city of Wilmington, Delaware showcases colonial architecture, cultural landmarks, and a significant role in the formation of the United States.
Join us as we unravel the intriguing history and trivia of Delaware, delving into its role as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, its contributions to American industry and innovation, and the stories that shape its unique identity as an integral part of our nation's history.
Facts About Delaware
State Abbreviation: DE
Name Origin: In 1610 explorer Samuel Argall named the bay and river after Virginia’s governor, Lord De La Warr—Delaware!
Nickname: Diamond State; First State; Small Wonder
Statehood: December 7, 1787 (1st State)
State Motto: "Liberty and independence"
The Delaware state flag, adopted in 1913, showcases a buff diamond on colonial blue, symbolizing the state's nickname, "The Diamond State," attributed by Thomas Jefferson.
Inside the diamond, the coat of arms features a ship highlighting maritime history, a farmer and militiaman representing agriculture and independence, and a plow for economic significance. The surrounding garland wreath depicts maize for prosperity and grapevines for wine production, tied to the motto "Liberty and Independence," reflecting the state's commitment to freedom and its role in ratifying the U.S. Constitution.
Delaware's Great Seal
Designed by a government committee in 1777, Delaware's official state seal remains almost unchanged to this day. The centerpiece holds the state coat of arms, reflecting the historical significance of agriculture and shipping. A river divides a sheaf of wheat and an ear of corn from an ox below. Above the crest, a sailing ship emerges, while below, a banner displays the motto "Liberty and Independence." The seal artfully captures Delaware's heritage and values.
History of Delaware
Delaware's discovery is credited to Henry Hudson, who sailed under the Dutch flag in 1609. The following year, Captain Samuel Argall of Virginia named the area Delaware after his colony's governor, Thomas West, Baron De La Warr. A Dutch settlement attempt in 1631 proved unsuccessful. Swedish colonization began at Fort Christina (now Wilmington) in 1638, but New Sweden fell to Dutch forces led by New Netherlands' governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1655.
In 1664, England took control of the region, which was later transferred to William Penn as the lower Three Counties in 1682. Delaware gained partial autonomy after 1704 and fought as a separate state in the American Revolution. It holds the distinction of being the first state to ratify the Constitution in 1787.
Despite being a slave state, Delaware did not secede from the Union during the Civil War.
In 1802, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont established a gunpowder mill near Wilmington, laying the foundation for Delaware's thriving chemical industry. Today, the state's manufacturing sector includes a wide range of products, such as vulcanized fiber, textiles, paper, medical supplies, metal products, machinery, machine tools, and automobiles.
Delaware is also known for its diverse agriculture, cultivating a variety of fruits and vegetables. It was a pioneer in the food-canning industry, and important crops include corn, soybeans, potatoes, and hay. The state's broiler-chicken farms supply major markets in the Eastern United States, while fishing and dairy products contribute to its economy.
Delaware boasts several points of interest, including the Fort Christina Monument, Hagley Museum, Holy Trinity Church (the oldest Protestant church still in use in the United States, built in 1698), and Winterthur Museum, located in and near Wilmington. The city of New Castle preserves its late 18th-century character and serves as a captivating historical capital. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy recreational areas like Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Trap Pond State Park, and Rehoboth Beach.
In 2000, Ruth Ann Minner was elected as Delaware's first female governor, marking a significant milestone. Then, in 2008, Joe Biden became the first Delaware senator to be elected as the Vice President of the United States, also becoming the first Roman Catholic to hold that office.
Delaware Blue Hen
- President Joe Biden is one of Delaware’s famous folks, and so is Howard Pyle, the author of the novel The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.
- The tidal salt marsh at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge hosts migrating birds including sandpipers, plovers, American black ducks, and salt marsh sparrows.
- Fans watch NASCAR races at the Dover International Speedway, nicknamed the Monster Mile. A 46-foot statue of a monster holds a full-size car in its hand in front of the track.
- The Johnson Victrola Museum displays early music-making machines such as gramophones; phonographs with flower-shaped horns; and some of the first record players, which were called Victrolas.
Things To Do in Delaware
- Explore the Historic District of Old New Castle: Take a step back in time as you wander through the charming streets of Old New Castle. Discover beautifully preserved colonial architecture, visit historic landmarks like the New Castle Court House Museum, and learn about Delaware's early history.
- Relax on the Delaware Beaches: Delaware is home to beautiful coastal areas with pristine beaches. Visit Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, or Dewey Beach for a day of sun, sand, and surf. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and strolling along the boardwalks filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
- Discover the Brandywine Valley: Immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of the Brandywine Valley, known for its rolling hills, picturesque countryside, and stunning gardens. Explore the renowned Longwood Gardens, tour the historic Brandywine River Museum of Art, and visit the Nemours Estate for a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the du Pont family.
- Visit Delaware's State Parks: Delaware boasts a variety of state parks offering outdoor recreational opportunities. Explore Cape Henlopen State Park, where you can hike nature trails, swim in the ocean, and explore historic World War II fortifications. Trap Pond State Park is another popular destination for kayaking, fishing, and observing wildlife in its beautiful freshwater pond.
- Experience Tax-Free Shopping: Delaware is famous for its tax-free shopping, making it a haven for retail therapy. Explore the Christiana Mall near Newark or the Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach, where you'll find a wide range of stores offering everything from high-end fashion to discounted brand-name goods.
General Map of Delaware
Delaware, often referred to as "The First State," is located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It offers a diverse range of attractions and activities that showcase its rich history, charming towns, and natural beauty. From historic landmarks to scenic coastal areas and cultural hubs, Delaware provides a unique blend of experiences for visitors to enjoy.
(April 23, 1960 - Wilmington) - Renowned actress and television personality. She gained fame for her role as Barbara Cooper Royer on the TV sitcom "One Day at a Time."
Henry S. Canby
(September 6, 1878 - Wilmington) - Distinguished literary critic, editor, and professor. He was known for his contributions to American literature and his work as the editor of "Saturday Review."
Annie Jump Cannon
(December 11, 1863 - Dover) - Pioneering astronomer known for her extensive work in stellar classification. Her groundbreaking research and the development of the Harvard Classification Scheme revolutionized the field of astronomy.
(September 13, 1755 - Newport) - Inventor and engineer known for his contributions to the industrial revolution. He developed various machines and processes, including an automated flour mill, which revolutionized the milling industry.
(November 10, 1893 - Wilmington) - Renowned author known for his novels exploring themes of social class and New England society. He received critical acclaim for his works, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Late George Apley."
(March 5, 1853 - Wilmington) - Influential artist, illustrator, and author associated with the Brandywine School. He gained recognition for his historical and adventure illustrations, particularly those depicting pirates and knights.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Delaware's nickname, and why is it called so?
Delaware is often referred to as the "First State." It earned this nickname because it was the first of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787. This historic act made Delaware the first state to become part of the newly formed United States.
How did Delaware get its name?
Delaware is named after the Delaware River, which was itself named after Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, an English nobleman and early colonial governor of Virginia. The river and subsequently the state were named in his honor.
What is Delaware's claim to fame in terms of size?
Delaware holds the title of the second-smallest state in the United States by land area, covering just over 1,900 square miles. Despite its small size, Delaware has a rich history and played a significant role in the country's early development.
What was Delaware's role in the American Revolutionary War?
Delaware played a significant role in the American Revolution, not only through the aforementioned Delaware River crossing but also by being one of the Thirteen Colonies that declared independence from British rule in 1776. Additionally, Delaware provided troops and resources to the Continental Army.
- Delaware.gov - The official website of the State of Delaware provides information about government services, business resources, tourism, and more. Visit: https://delaware.gov/
- Visit Delaware - Discover the attractions, events, accommodations, and dining options in Delaware. Plan your visit to the state. Visit: https://www.visitdelaware.com/
- Delaware State Parks - Explore Delaware's beautiful state parks, trails, and recreational activities. Find information about camping, fishing, boating, and more. Visit: https://destateparks.com/
- Delaware Historical Society - Learn about Delaware's rich history, access archival collections, and explore exhibits and educational programs. Visit: https://dehistory.org/
- Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs - Discover Delaware's historic sites, museums, and cultural events. Access resources for preservation and heritage tourism. Visit: https://history.delaware.gov/
- Delaware Tourism Office - Find travel information, itineraries, and guides to explore Delaware's attractions, beaches, gardens, and cultural destinations. Visit: https://www.visitdelaware.com/
- Delaware Nature Society - Engage with nature and conservation in Delaware through educational programs, environmental advocacy, and nature preserves. Visit: https://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/
- Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library - Experience the beauty of Winterthur's gardens, explore the museum's collections of American decorative arts, and participate in educational programs. Visit: https://www.winterthur.org/
- Delaware Art Museum - Discover the art collections and exhibitions showcasing American art, including works by local and regional artists. Visit: https://www.delart.org/
- Delaware State University - Learn about Delaware State University, a historically black university offering educational programs and cultural events. Visit: https://www.desu.edu/
- Delaware Children's Museum - Explore interactive exhibits and educational programs designed for children to learn through play and exploration. Visit: https://www.delawarechildrensmuseum.org/