The first of the original 13 states to ratify the federal Constitution, Delaware occupies a small niche in the Boston–Washington, D.C., urban corridor along the Middle Atlantic seaboard. It is the second smallest state in the country and one of the most densely populated. The state is organized into three counties—from north to south, New Castle, Kent and Sussex—all established by 1682. Its population, like its industry, is concentrated in the north, around Wilmington, where the major coastal highways and railways pass through from Pennsylvania and New Jersey on the north and east into Maryland on the south and west. The rest of the state comprises the northeastern corner of the Delmarva Peninsula, which Delaware shares with Maryland and Virginia (hence its name). Most state government operations are located in Dover, the capital.
Date of Statehood: December 7, 1787
Population: 897,934 (2010)
Size: 2,489 square miles
Nickname(s): The First State; The Diamond State; Blue Hen State; Small Wonder
Motto: Liberty and Independence
Tree: American Holly
Flower: Peach Blossom
Bird: Blue Hen
- The first European colony in the Delaware Valley was established by Swedish settlers in 1638. Between 1698 and 1699, the descendants of these early colonists constructed Old Swedes Church (also known as Holy Trinity Church), which is one of the oldest houses of worship in America still in use.
- According to legend, Delaware was nicknamed “The Diamond State” because Thomas Jefferson referred to it as a “jewel among the states” due to its prime location on the Eastern Seaboard.
- The first bathing beauty pageant in which contestants competed for the title of “Miss United States” took place in Rehoboth Beach in 1880 as a way to attract business during its summer festival. Inventor Thomas Edison was one of the contest’s judges.
- After the onset of World War II, several concrete observation towers ranging between 39 and 75 feet tall were constructed along Delaware’s coast to protect the bay and coastal towns from German warships. Eleven towers remain in Delaware and two remain in Cape May, NJ.
- Delaware Bay is home to more horseshoe crabs than anywhere else in the world. Mostly unchanged for the past 300 million years, these “living fossils” were collected by Native American Indians for food and used as fertilizer—a practice that was passed along to early colonial settlers and continued until the 1960s. Currently used in biomedical research, horseshoe crabs have played an invaluable role in studying the human eye and detecting bacteria in drugs.
- Over the years Delaware has been called the “chemical capital,” “the corporate capital” and the “credit card capital” of the United States.
State abbreviation/Postal code: Del./DE
Nicknames: Diamond State First State Small Wonder
Origin of name:From Delaware River and Bay named in turn for Sir Thomas West, Baron De La Warr
Motto:"Liberty and independence"
Slogan:"Like No Place on Earth"
Bird: Delaware blue hen(1939)
Butterfly:Eastern tiger swallowtail (1999)
Marine Animal:Horseshoe crab(2002)
Wildlife Animal:Gray fox(2010)
Flower:Peach blossom (1895)
Herb:Sweet goldenrod (1996)
Tree: American holly (1939)
Fossil: Belemnite (1996)
Soil:Greenwich loam (2000)
Star:The Delaware Diamond (2000)
Colors:Buff and Colonial Blue
Dessert:Peach custard pie (2009)
Song:"Our Delaware" (1925)
Tall Ship:The Kalmar Nyckel(2016)
Governor: John C. Carney Jr., D (to Jan. 2021)
Lieut. Governor:Bethany Hall-Long, D (to Jan. 2021)
Secy. of State: Jeffrey W. Bullock, D (appt'd. by gov.)
Treasurer: Ken Simpler, R (to Jan. 2019)
Atty. General: Matthew Denn, D (to Jan. 2019)
U.S. Representatives: 1
Senators:Chris Coons, D (to Jan. 2023) Thomas R. Carper, D (to Jan. 2019)
See Also:Historical biographies of DelawareCongress members
Resident population:945,934 (45th Largest State, 2015)
10 largest cities (2014): Brandywine, 82,672 Wilmington, 71,292 Pike Creek-Central Kirkwood, 44,493 Lower Christiana, 38,118 Dover, 37,089 Central Pencader, 33,750 Newark, 32,367 Piedmont, 30,902 Upper Christiana, 25,793 Central Kent, 21,857 Middletown, 19,483
Race/Ethnicity: White (68.9%) Black (21.4%) American Indian (0.5%) Asian (3.2%) Other race (3.4%) Two or more races (2.7%) Hispanic/Latino(8.2%).
Religion:Protestant (43%)No religion/Unaffiliated (26%)Catholic (14%) Mormon (9%) Jehovah's Witness (3%) Other Christian(1%) Buddhist(1%) Other (3%).
Sex: Male (48.4%) Female (51.6%).
Age: Under 18 (21.3%) 18-64 (64.3%) 65 and over (14.4%). Median Age: 36.0
See Also: Additional Delaware Census Data
GDP:74billion dollars (41stin U.S., 2017)
Unemployment: 5.1% (2015)
Overview:Despite being the nation's second smallest state by area, Delaware is densely populated and affluent. Delaware is technically the incorporated home of 1 million corporations due to its tax codes. In terms of real, physical employers in the state, Delaware has a very large chemical industry. Delaware is the home of DuPont, the world's largest chemicals manufacturer. The state also houses one of the country's largest Air Force bases.
Land area:1,954 sq mi. (5,161 km 2 )
Geographic center: In Kent Co., 11 mi. S of Dover
Number of counties: 3
Largest county by population and area: New Castle, 538,479 (2010) Sussex, 938 sq mi.
State forests: 3 (over 15,000 ac.)
State parks: 14 (over 20,000 ac.)
Delaware - HISTORY
General Delaware State History
Delaware's history is a long and proud one. Early explorations of our coastline were made by the Spaniards and Portuguese in the sixteenth century, by Henry Hudson in 1609 under the auspices of the Dutch, by Samuel Argall in 1610, by Cornelius May in 1613, and by Cornelius Hendricksen in 1614.
During a storm, Argall was blown off course and sailed into a strange bay which he named in honor of his governor. It is doubtful that Lord De La Warr ever saw, or explored, the bay, river, and state which today bears his name. In 1631, 11 years after the landing of the English pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the first white settlement was made on Delaware soil.
A group of Dutchmen formed a trading company headed by Captain David Pietersen de Vries for the purpose of enriching themselves from the New World. The expedition of about 30 individuals sailed from the town of Hoorn under the leadership of Captain Peter Heyes in the ship De Walvis (The Whale). Their settlement, called Zwaanendael, meaning valley of swans, was located near the present town of Lewes on the west bank of the Lewes Creek, today the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal.
Arriving in the New World in 1632 to visit the colony, Captain de Vries found the settlers had been killed and their buildings burned by the Indians.
No further attempts at colonization were made on Delaware soil until 1638, when the Swedes established their colony in present Wilmington, which was not only the first permanent settlement in Delaware, but in the whole Delaware River Valley and North America. The first expedition, consisting of two ships, Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar) and Vogel Grip (Griffen), under the leadership of Peter Minuit, landed about March 29. The location of the first Swedish settlement was at "The Rocks," on the Christina River, near the foot of Seventh Street. A fort was built called Fort Christina after the young queen of Sweden, and the river was likewise named for her.
The most important Swedish governor was Colonel Johan Printz, who ruled the colony under Swedish law for ten years, from 1643 to 1653. He was succeeded by Johan Rising, who upon his arrival in 1654, seized the Dutch post, Fort Casmir, which the governor of the Colony of New Netherlands had built in 1651, on the site of the present town of New Castle.
Rising governed the Swedish Colony from his headquarters at Fort Christina until the autumn of 1655, when Peter Stuyvesant came from New Amsterdam with a Dutch fleet, subjugated the Swedish forts, and established the authority of the Colony of New Netherlands throughout the area formerly controlled by the Colony of New Sweden. This marked the end of Swedish rule in Delaware, but the cultural, social, and religious influence of these Swedish settlers has had a lasting effect upon the cultural life of the people in this area and upon subsequent westward migrations of many generations. Old Swedes (Holy Trinity) Church built by the Swedes at Wilmington in 1698 was supplied by the Mother Church with missionaries until after the Revolution. It is one of the oldest Protestant Churches in North America.
Fort Christina State Park in Wilmington, with the fine monument created by the noted sculptor, Carl Milles, and presented by the people of Sweden, perpetuates the memory of these first settlers and preserves "The Rocks" where they first landed.
Following the seizure of the colony of New Sweden, the Dutch restored the name of Fort Casmir and made it the principal settlement of the Zuidt or South River as contrasted with the North or Hudson River. In a short time the area within the fort was not large enough to accommodate all the settlers so that a town, named New Amstel (now New Castle), was laid out.
The year 1681 marked the granting of the Province of Pennsylvania to William Penn by King Charles II and the arrival of Penn's agents on the Delaware River. They soon reported to the proprietor that the new province would be landlocked if the colonies on either side of the Delaware River or Bay were hostile. As a result of Penn's petition to the Crown for the land on the west side of the Delaware River and Bay below his province, the Duke of York in March 1682 conveyed, by deeds and leases now exhibited by the Delaware State Archives in the Hall of Records at Dover, the land included in the Counties of New Castle, St. Jones, and Deale. On October 27 of the same year, William Penn landed in America first at New Castle and there took possession from the Duke of York's agents as Proprietor of the lower Counties. On this occasion, the colonists subscribed an oath of allegiance to the new proprietor, and the first general assembly was held in the colony. The following year the three Lower Counties were annexed to the Province of Pennsylvania as territories with full privileges under Penn's famous "Frame of Government." Also in this year, the counties of St. Jones and Deale were renamed Kent and Sussex Counties respectively.
After 1682, a long dispute ensued between William Penn and Lord Baltimore of the Province of Maryland as to the exact dominion controlled by Penn on the lower Delaware.
The dispute continued between the heirs of Baltimore and Penn until almost the end of the colonial period. In 1776 at the time of the Declaration of Independence, Delaware not only declared itself free from the British Empire, but also established a state government entirely separate from Pennsylvania. Delaware's boundaries were surveyed in 1763-68 by the noted English scientists, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
With the advent to the Revolution nearly 4,000 men enlisted for service from the small state. The colonial wars had built up the militia system and supplied a number of capable officers who led the troops of Delaware in all the principal engagements from the battle of Long Island to the siege of Yorktown. The only Revolutionary engagement fought on Delaware soil was the battle of Cooch's Bridge, near Newark, on September 3, 1777.
An important stimulus to the recovery of the state's economy after the war was the invention in 1785 by Oliver Evans of Newport, Delaware, of automatic flour milling machinery, revolutionizing the industry.
In the following year, John Dickinson of Delaware presided over the Annapolis Convention, which called for the Federal Constitutional Convention, that met in Philadelphia the next year. When the new Constitution was submitted to the states for ratification, Delaware was the first of the thirteen original states to ratify the Constitution of the United States. This unanimous ratification took place in a convention of Dover on December 7, 1787, whereby Delaware became "The First State" of the new Federal Union. Proud of this heritage, Delawareans continue to honor the traditions which made them the First State to ratify the United States Constitution, the document that continues to protect our nation's justice, strength, and liberty.
The Delaware Colony
The Delaware Colony was one of the original 13 colonies located on the Atlantic coast of North America. The original 13 colonies were divided into three geographic areas consisting of the New England, Middle and Southern colonies. The Delaware Colony was classified as one of the Middle Colonies. The Province of Delaware was an English colony in North America that existed from 1638 until 1776, when it joined the other 12 of the 13 colonies in rebellion against Great Britain and became the U.S. state of Delaware.
Founding of the Delaware Colony
When was the colony of Delaware founded? The Delaware Colony was founded in 1638 by Peter Minuit and New Sweden Company.
Information and Facts with the Delaware Colony Fact File
Delaware river and bay were first explored on behalf of the Dutch by Henry Hudson in 1609, and more thoroughly in 1615-1616 by Cornelius Hendrikson, whose reports did much to cause the incorporation of the Dutch West India Company. The first settlement on Delaware soil was made under the auspices of members of the Dutch West India Company in 1638 near the site of the present Lewes. Fast facts and interesting information about the founding, establishment, geography, climate, religion, history, natural resources, raw material, industries (refer to Colonial Times) and the famous historical people associated with the Delaware Colony of Colonial America. Information and facts at a glance about the Delaware Colony via this fast fact file.
Facts & Symbols
Discover what makes the First State unique. Learn the origins and adoption of state symbols and facts. Read the history and traditions which influenced the selection of each fact.
If you or someone you know many have any other additional Delaware facts we would like to hear from you.
We have designed a Delaware themed coloring page! Feel free to print or color digitally! Share your work with us on by using the hashtag #ThisIsDelaware.
Adopted on April 14, 1939, the Blue Hen chicken had long been used as a motif in numerous political campaigns and in many publications. During the Revolutionary War, the men of Captain Jonathan Caldwell's company, recruited in Kent County, took with them game chickens that were said to be of the brood of a famous Blue Hen and were noted for their fighting ability. When not fighting the enemy, the officers and men amused themselves by pitting their Blue Hen chickens in cockfights. The fame of these cockfights spread throughout the army and when in battle, the Delaware men fought so valiantly that they were compared to these fighting cocks.
Signed on May 15, 2019, the state dog of Delaware is rescue dogs. There are many animal welfare agencies in the State of Delaware who are proud to provide care for these homeless dogs, striving to enhance the well-being of companion animals and committing to ending pet overpopulation. Animal shelters and rescue groups are brimming with happy, healthy dogs just waiting for someone to take them home.
In recognition of sport fishing’s overall recreational and economic contributions to the state of Delaware and of the specific values of the weakfish (Cynoscion genus) as a game and food fish, the state Legislature adopted the weakfish as Delaware's State fish in 1981. This fish is also known as sea trout, gray trout, yellow mouth, yellow fin trout, squeteague, and tiderunner.
State Marine Animal
Recognizing its great importance and value, the horseshoe crab was designated as Delaware’s official marine animal on June 25, 2002. These invertebrates contain a compound, limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), that is used to detect bacterial poisons in certain medications, vaccines and medical devices. Chitin, a natural polymer found in the horseshoe crab’s shell, is used to make bandages. The horseshoe crab is used in vision studies, because their complex eye structure is similar to the human eye. It is the principal food source for over a million shore birds. Delaware Bay is the home to more horseshoe crabs than any other place in the world.
State Wildlife Animal
Adopted June 10, 2010, the grey fox is a unique and primitive species, believed to be between 7 and 10 million years old, which is indigenous to Delaware. It is a swift and powerful animal capable of running up to 28 miles per hours and the only member of the canid family which is able to climb trees. The fourth grade students at Joseph M. McVey Elementary School, as part of teacher Paul Sedacca's lessons on persuasive writing, suggested that the grey fox be designated as Delaware's official state wildlife animal. Since it does not hibernate, the students said that it is "always ready like our soldiers at Dover Air Force Base".
Delaware ranks 49th in the nation with a total area of 1,982 square miles, (approximately 5,133.36 sq km). New Castle County is 438 square miles (1,134.41 sq km). Kent County is 594 square miles (1,538.45 sq km). Sussex County is 950 square miles(2,460.49 sq km). Delaware is 96 miles (154.497 km) long and varies from 9 to 35 miles (14.4841 km to 56.327 km) in width.
Delaware's climate is moderate year round. Average monthly temperatures range from 75.8° to 32.0° degrees (24.33° to 0.00°C). Average temperature in the summer months is 74.3° degrees. About 57% of the days are sunny. Annual precipitation is approximately 45 inches. Temperatures along the Atlantic Coast are about 10° degrees warmer in winter and 10° degrees cooler in summer. The average growing season varies from 170 to 200 days.
State Highest Elevation
Ebright Azimuth is the state's highest elevation point at 447.85 feet, (136.50 meters), above sea level near Ebright Road in New Castle County. Learn more about Ebright Azimuth here.
State Lowest Elevation
Sea Level along the Coast
Delaware's lowest elevation is at sea level along the state's coast
On the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Delaware is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, as well as by the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Delaware's location affords easy access to the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Baltimore are all within a 2-hour drive.
December 7, 1787
"Liberty and Independence"
"The First State"
Delaware is known by this nickname due to the fact that on December 7, 1787, it became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. “The First State” became the official State nickname on May 23, 2002 following a request by Mrs. Anabelle O'Malley's First Grade Class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.
"The Diamond State"
Thomas Jefferson gave this nickname to Delaware, according to legend, because he described Delaware as a "jewel" among states due to its strategic location on the Eastern Seaboard.
"Blue Hen State"
This nickname was given to Delaware after the fighting Blue Hen Cocks that were carried with the Delaware Revolutionary War Soldiers for entertainment during Cockfights.
This nickname was given to Delaware due to its size and the contributions it has made to our country as a whole and the beauty of Delaware.
The town of New Castle, a port on the Delaware River, became the colonial capital of the "Three Lower Counties" (Delaware) in 1704. Under Pennsylvania's Deputy Governor John Evans, the assemblies of the colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware separated though legislation enacted in both assemblies still required the Pennsylvania governor's signature. In November of 1704, four representatives from each county - New Castle, Kent, and Sussex met in the town and passed the colony's first two laws. One confirmed all laws previously enacted by the joint assembly of the colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The second law changed the number of representatives from each county from four to six.
William Rodeney (as he spelled his name) of Kent County, grandfather of Caesar Rodney, served as the first-known speaker of the assembly. His grandson, Caesar, presided over the last colonial assembly in Delaware. The "Three Lower Counties" remained a part of Pennsylvania until 1776 when economic, cultural, and political differences fostered a permanent separation. The capital was moved from New Castle to Dover in 1777.
Delaware became a state on June 15, 1776, when the Delaware Assembly formally adopted a resolution declaring an end to Delaware’s status as a colony of Great Britain and establishing the three counties as an independent state under the authority of “the Government of the Counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex Upon Delaware.” After the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the Delaware Assembly called a special constitutional convention, which assembled at New Castle on August 27, 1776. On September 11, 1776, the convention enacted the Delaware Declaration of Rights, similar in style to the later U.S. Bill of Rights. On September 21, 1776, the convention enacted the first Delaware Constitution. That first constitution served the state for a period of some 16 years until Delaware’s second state constitution was enacted by another constitutional convention in 1792. Our third state constitution was enacted in 1831 and our fourth, and current, constitution was enacted in 1897. Today, Delaware has a cabinet form of government.
The General Assembly, Delaware's lawmaking body, is comprised of a State House of Representatives, whose 41 members are elected for two-year terms, and a State Senate, whose 21 members are elected for four-year terms. Half of the Senate seats are contested in each general election.
The State Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and four associate justices. All members are appointed by the governor, with confirmation by the Senate, for a term of 12 years.
Meanwhile, said G. Ray Thompson, director of the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University, the English settlers at Jamestown were extending their territory.
Early Sussex County deeds show an influx of new landowners from nearby Maryland and the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Thompson said the timing of the movement of settlers to Delmarva may be tracked to the first great massacre at Jamestown in 1622, when 347 residents were killed and crops and livestock burned along with plantations.
The migrants were drawn north up the peninsula — first to Northampton and Accomack counties in Virginia and then into Somerset County, Maryland, and into Sussex County. Thompson said they perceived the native Nanticokes as more placid. Then, by the 1650s, religious dissent became an issue.
"That settlement just keeps pushing north," he said.
Thompson said the thing that amazes him is how mobile these early settlers were.
"There is so much interchange and movement," he said. "We always think they were isolated, but they weren't."
At the same time over in Maryland, the religious tolerance that had marked early settlement started waning as that area became a royal colony.
Residents had to pay a tax to the Church of England, McCabe said, and that pushed many over into Delaware. William Penn, a Quaker, didn't collect a tax. Because of him, many Quakers migrated into northern Delaware.
The Town of Magnolia claims both Swedish and Dutch heritage but was formally founded in 1885 by citizens within the Murderkill Hundred, including Thomas H. McIlvaine, John B. Conner, Thomas Draper, James L. Heverin, William S. McLain, John W. Wall, Alexander Jackson, Jacob Prettyman, and Captain James Grier. These founders laid out the boundary of the town, designing it as a circle to represent brotherhood. They used chords to create a circular boundary with a one-quarter mile radius.
Magnolia was built approximately one mile from the St. Jones River and, according to folklore, originated because settlers depended on the river, but wanted to escape mosquitoes that accompanied it.
The original area where the town is located was known as Caroon Manor, a 3000-acre tract of land owned by the Duke of York. The Magnolia tree was the Duke’s favorite tree, hence, the name of the town. A number of magnolia trees planted throughout the town still exist. The Sons of Liberty played a part in the early legal system in Magnolia and also influenced the designation of a circular town boundary.
Churches have made a significant impact on the community of Magnolia. The Magnolia Methodist Church was built in 1856 and is located on Main Street. The church burned down on Pearl Harbor Day (December 7, 1941) when no one responded to the fire whistle because everyone thought the whistle was due to Pearl Harbor being bombed. The church was rebuilt soon afterwards. Motherkill Friends’ Burial Ground, a historic Quaker cemetery, is located adjacent to the town’s northeastern border. This area is known as the “Quaker Graveyard,” dating back to the late 1700s with fieldstones marking the gravesites.
The Town of Magnolia was officially recognized by the Delaware General Assembly as an incorporated area on April 3, 1885. There are two locations in Magnolia that appear on the National Register of Historic Places. One location is the John B. Lindale House, a privately owned residence that was built in the early 1900s that has both agricultural and architectural significance and was home to one of the last great peach barons in Delaware. A sign located outside the house proudly boasts:
“This is Magnolia, the center of the universe around which the earth revolves.”
The other registered location is the Matthew Lowber House, which also has architectural historical significance. Built in 1774 as a domestic dwelling, this Quaker mansion generated some publicity for Magnolia when it was physically lifted and moved from its original site to its present location in the early 1980s.
In 1928 Magnolia formed one of the first volunteer fire companies in the state, and around the same time installed its first water well. In 1957 the Legislature authorized a referendum to be held in Magnolia to decide whether the boundaries of the town should be extended in order to annex previously unincorporated areas. However, due to the limited services provided by the town, residents of the areas in question felt they would simply acquire a greater tax burden with few advantages. The referendum was defeated.
Possibly in response to this defeat, the town was reincorporated in 1960 with the scope of the town’s governmental authority greatly expanded. The council, with one member now designated as Mayor, was authorized to increase its borrowing limits to help finance new services and establish zoning ordinances to regulate growth within the town. The Town’s unique circular boundary has remained intact since 1885.
[Ed. Note: The Town’s complete early history has been fully documented by local author and former resident Hazel Wright Reynolds in her book Flower of Caroon Manor. Interested persons can contact Mayor James Frazier for further information on purchasing a copy.]
History of Delaware
Long before the City of Delaware came into existence, Mingo, and Shawnee Indian tribes lived in the area and settlements were established where the future town would develop.
In 1804, Moses Byxbe arrived in central Ohio from Berkshire County,
Sandusky and William Street, looking north
Massachusetts. He had acquired a large number of land grants which were part of the United States Military lands, given in payment to Revolutionary War soldiers. In the spring of 1808, Byxbe laid out a town on the east bank of the Olentangy River but a few days later changed his mind about the most suitable location and platted the town on the west bank.
On May 9, 1808, Byxbe filed or, “platted” the, “plan of the town of Delaware,” marking the real beginning of the present City of Delaware.
Byxbe (1756-1826) was a man of exceptional energy, courage and drive who shaped the City of Delaware’s future during its formative years. He accomplished a great deal in a little more than 20 years on the Ohio frontier – Delaware’s founding and planning, growing a local economy, the enlistment of capable civic partners, and even an attempt to locate Ohio’s capital in Delaware. The tough-mindedness that served Byxbe well in Delaware’s early days also drew its share of detractors, but there is general agreement that Byxbe excelled at attracting high-caliber settlers who formed the basic population upon which Delaware was founded.
Following the War of 1812, settlers began arriving at a faster pace, including the parents of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. Hayes was born in Delaware and met his future wife, Lucy, at Ohio Wesleyan University. Ohio Wesleyan was founded in 1842 by Methodists seeking to establish a liberal arts college.
Prior to the Civil War, Delaware had Northern sympathies and abolitionists brought the Underground Railway through the area. The local Africa Road owes it name to this era. Camp Delaware, a Civil War-era camp for soldiers was one of the few from which African-American soldiers deployed to fight for the Union. During and following the War, railroads played an important role in expanding the markets of Delaware. By 1900, Delaware had its own electric street railway, and an electric interurban rail connected the community with Columbus and Marion, located about 20 miles to the north.
In the modern era, residential and industrial development has flourished. The proximity to Columbus, as well as historic periods of growth and prosperity, has greatly influenced the Delaware economy. Its history, however, is carefully preserved in its many 19th century buildings and homes, its comfortable scale and “home town” pace of life.
Click here for New Castle Community History and Archaeology Project website
Step back in time and experience the charm and beauty of colonial New Castle. Walk the cobblestone streets and enjoy the historic sites of this riverfront community.
New Castle, originally named Fort Casimir, was founded in 1651 by Peter Stuyvesant, who was sent to provide the Dutch with command of all river traffic. Because of its strategic location, ownership of the settlement was constantly changing. The flags of the Netherlands, Sweden and Great Britain have all flown over New Castle.
The three counties which make up the state of Delaware were added to William Penn’s lands in America. In 1682, Penn came ashore at New Castle and took possession, but these counties, which were well established, became dissatisfied with Penn’s rule. In 1704, when he granted them a separate legislature, New Castle became the colonial capitol of Delaware. The lively town also briefly served as the first state capital, and continued as the county seat until the 1880’s.
New Castle’s location made it an ideal transfer point for trips up and down the coast. As a result, New Castle was a thriving community throughout the 1700’s and early 1800’s. The courts and general assembly also attracted various judges, lawyers and government officials who built handsome houses, many of which still remain. The Great Fire of 1824, which started in the stables behind the Jefferson House, claimed many of the inns and warehouses located on The Strand. Among the buildings destroyed was the modest home of George Read, signer of the Declaration on Independence and the Constitution.
Unlike many historic communities, New Castle is a residential town where people live and work. Each house reflects the individuality of its past and present owners. Because New Castle has been named a National Landmark Historic Area, all renovations and restorations are carefully supervised.
This small, picturesque City allows vacationers, as well as business travelers, a refreshing respite from the pressures of daily life. Whether you are enjoying the beaches, the Brandywine Valley, or other treasures of Delaware, be sure to include New Castle in your itinerary.
A timeline of New Castle City History, compiled by the New Castle Historical Society:
1651 – Fort Casimir established at today’s New Castle by the Dutch under Gov. Peter Stuyvesant.
1682 – William Penn landed in New Castle to take control of the colony of Pennsylvania.
1704 – Penn granted Lower Three Counties (today’s Delaware) independent status, with New Castle as their capital.
1764 – First Board of Trustees of New Castle Common named to manage common land for residents.
1776 – New Castle became the state capital, but the state moved its governmental seat to Dover the following year.
1824 – New Castle was devastated by the Great Fire on Water Street, now known as The Strand.
1831 – New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad opened. It was the first railroad in Delaware and one of the first in the nation.
1875 – New Castle incorporated as a city under an act of the state legislature.
1881 – New Castle County seat moved from New Castle to Wilmington.
1897 – Electric trolley service to Wilmington added.
1925 – New Castle-Pennsville, N.J., ferry service was inaugurated. It ended in 1951.
1934 – New Castle Historical Society established for purpose of opening the 1738 Amstel House as the first historic-house museum in town.
1949 – The town’s central district was surveyed and mapped by Historic New Castle Inc. in a preservation initiative.
2001 – The city celebrated the 350th anniversary of its founding.
Researching Your House in the Town of New Castle
A house research guide for New Castle County is available from the State of Delaware has much useful detail, but there are some resources specific to the Town of New Castle. These research approaches are listed below in order of ease of use and usefulness. Even if you know only the address of a property in the historic area you can find out the names of occupants or owners from the first settlement in the 1650’s up to the 1840’s. These names help with the other approaches such as census, probate, tax or burial records.
You can find more information on New Castle Community History and Archaeology Project on their website.
25 Delightful Facts About Delaware
With fewer than one million residents and a total area not much larger than Anchorage, Alaska, the state of Delaware is naturally at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes the rest of the country's appreciation for it. Beyond its status as one of the 13 original colonies, what do you know about the land of liberty and independence ? Here are 25 facts to get you started.
1. The first known inhabitants of the region we now call Delaware were the Lenni Lenape and the Nanticoke, tribes that combined to form the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape confederation.
2. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787 , five days before any other province or colony. In 2002 , a first grade class requested that the nickname “The First State” be made official.
3. Delaware was last to the party in terms of getting a National Monument, which didn't happen until 2013. The First State National Monument, dedicated by President Obama and Vice President Biden, is comprised of 1100 acres of preserved land, plus a handful of historic buildings—including Dover Green, where Delawareans ratified the Constitution.
4. Another nickname for Delaware is the “Diamond State.” Thomas Jefferson reportedly once referred to it as a “ jewel ” due to its ideal location.
5. Delaware is the second-smallest state in the country. It stretches just under 100 miles long, and is only 35 miles at its widest point.
6. The Delaware River and the Delaware Bay both predate the name of the state. In 1610, English naval officer Samuel Argall named the bodies of water after the governor of Virginia, Thomas West, the 12th Baron De La Warr.
7. The state insect is a ladybug, thanks to a second grade class who petitioned and got it approved by the 127th General Assembly on April 25, 1974.
8. Brigadier-General Caesar Rodney of Dover, the guy on the back of the 1999 Delaware state quarter , rode 80 miles on horseback overnight to Philadelphia on July 1, 1776 to cast an important vote—despite suffering from asthma and skin cancer. His vote was the deciding factor in favor of the nation’s independence.
9. According to a 2015 study , buffering is something that Delawareans rarely have to worry about. The state enjoys the fastest Internet speeds in the country, with connection speeds higher than every other country observed with the exception of South Korea.
10. Move over, Florida! Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based finance news and business publication, recently listed Delaware as the top state for retirees in terms of economy, crime, demographics, and tax rates.
11. The state is also pretty popular among cyclists. The League of American Bicyclists named it the third most bike-friendly state in the country in 2015.
12. If team sports are more your speed, several of Delaware's state parks offer 18-hole disc golf courses. Not familiar with the game? Check out the official rules over at the Professional Disc Golf Association's website.
13. The University of Delaware offered the country's first study abroad program in 1923, when a professor and WWI veteran, citing the importance of cross-cultural exchange, set sail for France along with eight juniors.
14. Despite being the second-smallest state, Delaware is also the sixth most densely populated state in America.
15. Delaware plays host to the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association's annual competition, in which nearly 50,000 spectators converge on the town of Bridgeville to watch teams—using homemade devices—attempt to launch pumpkins as far as they can. Unfortunately, the event has been canceled for the past two years because organizers have been unable to secure insurance coverage.
16. Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza hails from Wilmington , Ryan Phillippe is from a few miles down Route 9 in New Castle , and Vice President Joe Biden went to college at the University of Delaware in Newark. He later represented the state as a U.S. Senator from 1973 until 2009.
17. Delaware was also a home to reggae royalty for a brief period. Bob Marley lived in the state between 1965 and 1977 , and worked for the Dupont Company and at the Chrysler assembly plant in Newark. One of his children, Stephen Marley, was born in Wilmington .
18. Set at the fictional Welton Academy of Vermont, the film Dead Poet’s Society (1989) was shot at St. Andrews School in Middletown. Some of the actors weren’t used to small town life during production star Robin Williams was quoted as saying that “ staying in a hotel room in a town that shuts down at 5 o'clock at night can be boring.”
19. One of the first “ resort beauty pageants ” was held in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in 1880. Thomas Edison served as one of the judges.
20. An insect species, the Bethany Beach firefly, can only be found in Delaware. The firefly was rediscovered in 1998 after disappearing for nearly 40 years.
21. In 2013, the governor of Delaware celebrated the incorporation of state’s one millionth legal entity , which is more than the population of the entire state.
22. Students in Wilmington once held the record for the world’s tallest LEGO tower. The tower stood 113 feet tall and was made of over 500,000 bricks. The new record now stands at 114 feet and over 600,000 bricks, so Delaware has some work to do to reclaim the title.
23. There is no sales tax in Delaware , which means the state's various malls and outlets are major attractions for tourists looking to save year-round.
24. Each year in Bridgeville (also the home of the aforementioned Punkin Chunkin competition), Delawareans attend the Apple Scrapple Festival , a 23-year-old celebration of two products the region is especially proud of.
25. The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was founded in Milton, Delaware in 1995 and now sells its 25 styles of beer in more than 25 states across the country. They even introduced a beer with scrapple in it back in 2014.