Delaware, one of the South Atlantic states of the United States. It occupies part of the peninsula between Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. Delaware was one of the 13 original states. Delawareans played a major role in the events that occurred during and after the American Revolution (1775-1783), and on December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
Delaware is divided into three counties: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. Historically, industrialized New Castle County has contrasted with the other two counties, which have been predominantly agricultural areas. Today more than two-thirds of the population live in New Castle County, the northernmost county, in and around Wilmington, the state’s only large city. Dover, in Kent County in the center of the state, is Delaware’s capital. The history of Wilmington and of the state’s early large-scale industrial growth is, to a great extent, the history of the famous du Pont family and E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, one of the world’s largest chemical companies. Delaware is primarily an industrial state. Most of the manufacturing industries are located in New Castle County, although a number of industrial plants have been established in the two southern counties. For the most part, the south remains an agricultural area, and farmers produce a wide range of products for such urban markets as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City. The people of Delaware commonly denote parts of their state as either “north of the canal,” meaning in the industrialized and densely inhabited region around Wilmington, or “south of the canal,” meaning in Delaware’s rural and lightly settled farming region. The canal referred to is the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which effectively bisects New Castle County.
The state’s name is derived from the name of Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, Virginia’s first colonial governor. In 1610 Sir Samuel Argall, sailing for Virginia, sighted what is now called Cape Henlopen in Delaware Bay. Argall named it Cape De La Warr in honor of the governor. Although the cape itself was later renamed, the name Delaware came to be applied to the Delaware River and Delaware Bay and later to the land along the western shore of the bay and the river. Delaware’s official nickname is the First State, which commemorates Delaware’s early ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Delaware is also known as the Diamond State, because its value, like that of a diamond, is said to be out of all proportion to its small size. Another nickname, the Blue Hen State, dates from the American Revolution when the fighting spirit of the Delaware First Regiment was compared with that of their mascots, a brood of gamecocks reared by a famous blue hen. The blue hen was later designated the official state bird.
Delaware is the second smallest state of the Union, covering only 6,446 sq km (2,489 sq mi), including 186 sq km (72 sq mi) of inland water and 961 sq km (371 sq mi) of coastal water over which it has jurisdiction. Only Rhode Island is smaller. Located in the eastern section of the Delmarva Peninsula, between Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay, Delaware is 154 km (96 mi) from north to south and varies from 14 to 56 km (9 to 35 mi) east to west. The state is a low-lying area. With an average elevation of only 18 m (60 ft), it ranks as the lowest state in the nation.
Delaware can be divided into two major regions, or physiographic provinces, each of which is part of a larger physiographic division of the eastern United States. The two regions are the Piedmont Plateau and the Coastal Plain. The Piedmont, which is part of the larger Appalachian Region, extends into the state from Pennsylvania and forms only a small section of Delaware. The Coastal Plain occupies the rest of the state as well as much of the coastal area of neighboring states. The boundary between Delaware’s two natural regions is marked by the Fall Line, the zone where streams pass from the more ancient and harder rock of the upland to the more easily eroded sands, clays, and shales of the Coastal Plain.
The Piedmont in Delaware lies north of the Christina River, and consists of fertile river valleys and rolling wooded hills. The highest point, on the border with Pennsylvania, is only 137 m (448 ft) above sea level, and few other hills rise above 120 m (400 ft).
The Coastal Plain in Delaware is characterized by flat, sometimes swampy plains, which are part of the wide sandy plain that stretches along the eastern coast of the United States. Great Pocomoke Swamp, which is also called Big Cypress Swamp, lies in the southern part of the Coastal Plain, and other swamps and marshes, which are flooded at high tide, occupy the lower courses of many of the major river valleys. A low ridge of well-drained land runs the entire length of the Coastal Plain in Delaware. It forms the low divide between rivers flowing eastward into Delaware Bay and westward into Chesapeake Bay. Delaware’s best farmlands lie on or near the low ridge. Nearly all of the state’s coastal plain is less than 18 m (60 ft) above sea level.
Delaware borders the estuary of the Delaware River, which is considered to be the state’s principal river. The wide, lower portion of the estuary is called Delaware Bay. In northeastern Delaware, the New Jersey state line follows the east bank of the Delaware River so that the river there lies entirely in Delaware. In northern Delaware, rivers flowing into the Delaware River include the Christina and its tributary, Brandywine Creek, which join to form Wilmington’s harbor. Other rivers flowing into Delaware Bay include the Appoquinimink, Smyrna, and Saint Jones rivers in central Delaware, and the Mispillion River, which enters the bay in southern Delaware. The Nanticoke and its tributary, Broad Creek, are the principal rivers in southwestern Delaware and flow westward across Maryland into Chesapeake Bay. There are many other short rivers and streams in the state.
Except for the Delaware River, most of the major rivers in the state are navigable only by small craft. Oceangoing vessels and barges can navigate Delaware Bay and the Delaware River to Wilmington and other ports farther upriver. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal extends across the northern part of the state to link Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay. The canal forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
In colonial times the small waterfalls that occur where Brandywine Creek and other tributaries of the Christina River flow over the Fall Line provided waterpower for Delaware’s flour mills and other factories.
There are no large lakes in Delaware. However, there are numerous small lakes and ponds, which are often used for fishing and other recreational activities.
The state’s ocean coastline is only 45 km (28 mi) long. The shoreline, which includes all bays and inlets, is 613 km (381 mi) long. Extensive saltwater marshes are found along the shores of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. By contrast, south of Cape Henlopen the seacoast is fringed by sand dunes and long sandy barrier beaches. Indian River Inlet, which allows small vessels to reach the shallow lagoons behind the coast, is the only break in the barrier beaches. Behind the beaches are Rehoboth Bay, Indian River Bay, and other lagoons.
Delaware has generally hot and humid summers and mild winters.
In July, average daytime temperatures are usually in the upper 20°s to lower 30°sC (80°sF) or even higher. But because summer nights tend to be cooler than the days, July averages are about 24°C (about 75°F). In addition, onshore sea breezes can reduce daytime temperatures along the coast by 3 to 6 Celsius degrees (5 to 10 Fahrenheit degrees). January averages range from -1°C (31°F) at Newark, in the north, to 3°C (38°F) at Bridgeville, in Sussex County. Nearly three-fifths of Delaware’s days are classified as sunny.
Precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) in Delaware is evenly distributed throughout the year, with slightly more in June and July than in any other month. Most of the state receives between 1,020 and 1,170 mm (40 and 46 in) a year. Severe droughts are uncommon. Thunderstorms occur frequently in summer, and in winter there is generally light snowfall.
The growing season, which is the period between the last killing frost in the spring and the first killing frost in the fall, is generally between 170 and 200 days long. Destructive frosts seldom occur later than the end of April or before the middle of October.
Delaware has predominantly gray-brown soils, called Ultisols, that range in texture from coarse sands to loams. These soils, which have in many areas been cultivated for as long as 200 years, now require heavy applications of fertilizer when cultivated.
Prior to European settlement, most of Delaware was covered by forest. However, much of the original tree cover was cut for timber, fuel, and agricultural purposes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today 31 percent of the state remains forested, although nearly all existing forests have been harvested for timber at some time in the past. The principal deciduous trees include oak, hickory, beech, maple, gums, and ash. Loblolly pine, found chiefly in the southern part of the state, is the principal conifer. In the sandy coastal areas are found pitch pine, loblolly pine, red cedar, and bayberry. The bald cypress, common in the South, has its northernmost stand in North America in the Great Cypress Swamp, where Atlantic white cedar and other trees can also be found.
Wild flowers are found in great abundance between early spring and late fall. Common wild flowers include the crocus, violet, azalea, honeysuckle, pink lady’s slipper, and aster. The water lily is common in freshwater lakes and ponds throughout the state. The hibiscus grows in salt marshes, and the swamp magnolia along the coast. The blossom of the peach tree is the state flower of Delaware.
The white-tailed deer is the only large game animal found in Delaware today. Other animals found there include the fox, raccoon, chipmunk, rabbit, mole, muskrat, mink, otter, and some beaver.
Among the wide variety of birds found in Delaware are the robin, Carolina wren, starling, boat-tailed grackle, wood thrush, purple grackle, catbird, cardinal, tufted titmouse, blue jay, and ruby-throated hummingbird. There are also a number of species of warbler, woodpecker, vireo, and sparrow in the state. The woodcock, snipe, quail, mourning dove, and pheasant are the principal game birds. Shore and water birds include the great blue heron, snowy egret, black duck, blue-winged teal, and species of sandpipers, gulls, and terns.
The snapping turtle is common in the swamps. Snakes include the hognose snake, the blackrat snake, the garter snake, and the copperhead, the only poisonous snake in the state.
Crabs and clams are gathered in Delaware Bay, although their numbers are drastically reduced from former years, while oysters have been almost eliminated by a combination of diseases. Bass, perch, pike, trout, and other game fish are common in many lakes, ponds, and smaller streams in the state. Other fish include sturgeon, catfish, and drumfish.
Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is responsible for the conservation of soil and water and the management of fish and wildlife, parks, water resources, air quality, and waste disposal. The preservation of wetlands and other fragile lands is a priority. State park acreage has risen from about 2,100 hectares (about 5,300 acres) in the early 1970s to more than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) in the mid-1990s. In the same period the area set aside to protect wildlife grew to 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres). The possible loss of its remaining open space is one of the state’s most serious environmental issues. Between 1995 and 2000, the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment remained stable, changing by less than half a percent.
In 1989 all three counties in Delaware failed to meet the federal standard for ozone, a major component of smog. By the early 1990s the number of days in which the Wilmington area failed to meet standards had been halved, while no days in excess of federal standards were reported in Sussex County. Other air pollutants were also being cleaned up.
Since 1970 lead has been virtually eliminated from the air, and levels of soot, dust, and other particulate matter have fallen. Concentrations of carbon monoxide, sulfur, and some organic chemicals have also declined.
Because ozone is the pollutant of primary concern, the state requires vehicle emission inspections. To help reduce vehicle emissions, service stations are required to sell highly combustible gasoline in summer. In 1990 Delaware and five nearby states concluded an agreement to coordinate strategies for the control of ozone and certain other pollutants.
Delaware is the only state to operate a statewide solid waste management agency with powers to locate and run disposal facilities. This agency, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, was created in 1978. In 1988 the state revised its solid waste laws, emphasizing trash reduction and the cleaning up of problem landfills. By 1990, 50 such landfills had been closed and 25 of these had been cleaned up.
All hazardous waste producers and treatment and disposal facilities must obtain permits and are inspected regularly. The generation and movement of hazardous waste in the state are carefully tracked. In 2006 Delaware had 14 hazardous waste sites on a federal priority list for cleanup because of their severity or proximity to people.
Underground storage tanks, primarily for petroleum products such as gasoline, are also regulated. Many old tanks have been upgraded or removed. New tanks must meet stringent installation rules, particularly where the water table is close to the surface.
In the 1960s, the water quality in Delaware’s bays, streams, and wetlands was generally high. It declined in the 1970s, largely because of poorly treated sewage discharges and excessive sediments from erosion. As a result of such water pollution, the quality and quantity of the shellfish harvest were so poor by the late 1970s that the industry was all but destroyed. Other possible sources of water pollution are oil spills from tankers plying the Delaware River.
Beach preservation and wetlands protection are matters of concern. Beach management generally emphasizes sand replenishment. Fragile sand-dune ecosystems are protected from vehicular traffic. New state policies discourage the draining of wetlands.
Delaware is a small but prosperous state, the economy of which benefits from the large urban markets nearby. During much of the 19th and 20th centuries, manufacturing was the state’s leading economic activity. In the late 1990s, however, the finance sector provided the greatest share of the state’s economy, with many people employed in commerce, service industries, or government agencies as well. Partly because of Delaware’s relatively lenient corporate-tax laws, many businesses are incorporated in the state even though virtually all their activities are carried on elsewhere.
Delaware’s labor force totaled 440,000 in 2006. The largest share of the labor force, 34 percent, worked in the diverse service sector, doing jobs such as working in restaurants or computer programming. Another 17 percent were employed in wholesale or retail trade; 14 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 13 percent in manufacturing; 24 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 6 percent in construction; and 19 percent in transportation or public utilities. Employment in mining and agriculture was insignificant. In 2005, 12 percent of Delaware’s workers were unionized.
In 2005 there were 2,300 farms in Delaware. Many were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 210,437 hectares (520,000 acres). Some 85 percent of the farmland was used to raise crops, with the remainder split between pasture and woodlots.
The sale of livestock and livestock products accounted for 80 percent of total farm income in 2004. Poultry and eggs are the most valuable farm products and contribute nine-tenths of the total value of livestock sales. Broilers, which are young chickens raised for meat, are the most valuable farm product. They are raised in large numbers on specialized farms in Sussex and Kent counties. Eggs and turkeys are also produced on some poultry farms.
Dairy farms are numerous in northern sections of the state and are a major source of fresh milk for Wilmington, Philadelphia, and other large cities in the East. Hogs and beef cattle, which are fed partly on surplus milk and milk wastes, are also raised.
Field crops provide 20 percent of all farm income. Soybeans and corn are grown throughout the state, and represent the leading crops in terms of sales. Wheat is raised on many farms in northern and central Delaware. Potatoes are a specialty crop on farms in southern Delaware, and together with peas are the most valuable vegetable crops. In addition, a variety of truck and fruit crops are produced in the state. Peaches, once the chief crop of the state, are an important orchard crop.
Commercial fishing crews and chartered boats working out of Lewes and other lower Delaware ports catch saltwater fish in Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Clams and crabs are dredged. In 2004 the fish catch was valued at $5.4 million.
Many farmers retain small woodlots on their property. The wood is used to make boxes and crates and other wood products. Some fine woods, for use as veneers in good-quality furniture, are also cut. Holly, which is fashioned into wreaths and decorations for the Christmas season, is also grown.
Delaware ranks last among all the states in the value of mineral production, and there are few mineral resources of even potential commercial value. Magnesium compounds, extracted from seawater, and sand and gravel are the principal mineral products. Iron ore is present in small quantities on the Piedmont and in some of the swamps of the coastal region. However, the deposits are too small and too widely scattered to be of commercial value.
In 2002 some 13 percent of the workforce of Delaware was employed in manufacturing industries. The principal industry is the chemical industry, which in 1996 generated two-fifths of all income produced by industry. Chemical products manufactured in the state include paints and varnishes, dyes, cloth and cloth finishes, and synthetic fibers. Other industrial activities include food processing and the manufacture of paper products, instruments, rubber and plastic goods, fabricated metal products, machinery, and transportation equipment. There are also several petroleum refineries and printing and publishing firms in the state. Most industrial plants are located in northern New Castle County, in the Wilmington area.
The chemical industry in Delaware dates from 1802, when Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, a French immigrant, built the state’s first gunpowder mill on Brandywine Creek near Wilmington. From those early beginnings grew E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, the largest chemical company in the United States. The home office and the research laboratories of the company now dominate the city and suburbs of Wilmington. There are a number of other chemical companies with headquarters in Delaware, the largest being Hercules and Atlas, which split off from the Du Pont Company after an antitrust suit in 1912.
The manufacture of textiles and leather products was formerly a major economic activity, but it is now of only minor significance. The textile industry began in the late 18th century, when Jacob Broom built the state’s first cotton mill on Brandywine Creek. Leather making is also one of the state’s oldest industries. Buckskin and chamois leather were manufactured in Wilmington as early as 1732.
Steam-driven power plants burning coal, natural gas, or petroleum produce 100 percent of the electricity generated in Delaware. The Delmarva Power and Light Company, a private utility, serves most of the state.
|G||Transportation and Commerce|
Delaware’s main center of transportation and commerce, the port of Wilmington, lies on the Christina River near its junction with the Delaware. Wilmington serves large oceangoing vessels and carries on an extensive trade through its municipal marine terminal with New York City and other U.S. ports and with foreign ports. Wilmington is the largest port-of-discharge for bananas in the world. The port is also important in both import and export of automobiles. The chief commercial waterways are the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
By 2005 Delaware had 9,806 km (6,093 mi) of public roads, of which 66 km (41 mi) were part of the national interstate highway system. Wilmington is the focal point of several major federal highways. The Delaware Memorial Bridge, which spans the Delaware River near Wilmington, was opened in 1951. Traffic volume grew so heavy (the bridge connects the Delaware and New Jersey turnpikes) that a second, twin span was opened in 1968. A ferry offers year-round service between Lewes, Delaware, and Cape May, New Jersey.
Delaware was served by 367 km (228 mi) of railroads in 2004. Some 35 percent of the tonnage of goods shipped by rail and originating in the state was chemicals. Commuter rail service is provided from Wilmington to downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 2007 Delaware had 1 airports, some of which were private airfields. The principal airport was the Greater Wilmington Airport, although it was not busy by national standards. The Wilmington area also is served by a major airport in Philadelphia. Dover Air Force Base is one of the most important military air terminals on the East Coast.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF DELAWARE|
According to the 2000 national census, Delaware ranked 45th among the states, with a total population of 783,600. This represented an increase of 17.6 percent over the 1990 census figure of 666,168. Despite its comparatively small population, Delaware had a high average density in 2006 of 169 persons per sq km (437 per sq mi). Whites make up the largest share of Delaware’s residents, representing 74.6 percent of the people. Blacks are 19.2 percent of the population, Asians 2.1 percent, Native Americans 0.3 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 3.7 percent. Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders number 283. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 4.8 percent of the people. Some 80 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 2000.
The earliest settlers, who arrived in the 17th century, were mainly Swedes, but there were also Finns, Dutch, and a few English and French. The total population in the region in the middle of the 17th century was probably less than 1,000. Most Delawareans trace their ancestry back to later immigrants. The British were the most numerous in the late 17th and 18th centuries and included settlers of English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh extraction. French settlers arrived in the 1790s. In the middle of the 19th century, immigrants from Ireland and Germany found work in the factories that were being set up in northern Delaware. Toward the end of the 19th century they were followed by Italians, Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians. Blacks are descended mainly from Africans who were brought to Delaware as slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Delaware’s largest city is Wilmington, which in 2006 had an estimated population of 72,826. Wilmington was the site of the first permanent settlement by Europeans during the colonial era and is today the chief center of manufacturing, commercial, and transportation activities in the state. Wilmington is also the state’s foremost cultural center.
Dover, the state capital, serves as an administrative and commercial center. Tourism is also important to the city, which is noted for its many buildings of historic interest. Dover’s population was 34,735 in 2006. Newark, with a population of 30,014, is a manufacturing city and the seat of the University of Delaware. Milford, with a population of 7,852, is a trade center for farms in southern Delaware. Seaford is an industrial community on the Nanticoke River. Lewes is one of the oldest ports on the East Coast. New Castle, site of William Penn’s first landing in North America, is a quaint river town south of Wilmington. Its historic courthouse and cobblestone streets attract many visitors.
The earliest Swedish settlers established a Lutheran congregation in 1638. Most of the early English colonists belonged to the Church of England, while Dutch settlers were usually members of the Reformed Church. New Castle’s Immanuel Episcopal Church (1703) was the first Church of England parish in Delaware. Many Quakers moved to Delaware from Pennsylvania in the 18th century. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Presbyterian and Baptist churches were established, and after the American Revolution members of the Church of England in the United States reorganized as the Protestant Episcopal Church. Methodism, introduced in the mid-18th century, became the dominant religion in Delaware by about 1800. In the 19th century the number of Roman Catholics greatly increased with the arrival of immigrants from Europe.
Although many Protestant denominations are now represented, the United Methodist Church has the largest membership, particularly in rural areas. But statewide and particularly in Wilmington and other cities Roman Catholics are the largest single religious group, representing about one-quarter of all church members. In addition, there are a few Jewish and Orthodox congregations in the state.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
Although the general assembly created a public school fund in 1796, no use was made of it until 1817 and 1818, when $1,000 was allocated to each county for the education of poor children. In 1829 the legislature passed “An Act for the Establishment of Free Schools.” Under the terms of the act, Delaware was divided into school districts, which were empowered to raise funds that would be matched, up to $300, by state funds. However, no district was compelled to raise money or to open a school.
Delaware now has a modern school system. The seven members of the state board of education are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. Six of the members serve six year terms; the seventh serves at the pleasure of the governor. The state secretary of education is appointed by the governor, approved by the state senate, and serves at the pleasure of the governor. School attendance in Delaware is compulsory for all children from the ages of 5 to 16. Some 20 percent of the state’s children attend private schools.
In the 2002–2003 school year Delaware spent $11,382 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 15.2 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state, 85.5 percent had a high school diploma, compared to an average of 84.1 percent for the nation as a whole.
The first state institution of higher education, Newark College (now the University of Delaware, at Newark) was founded in 1833. In 2004–2005 Delaware had 5 public and 5 private institutions of higher education. Among the most notable of these schools, besides the University of Delaware, were Delaware State University and Wesley College, both in Dover; Goldey-Beacom College and Widener University School of Law, both in Wilmington; and Wilmington College, in New Castle.
Delaware had 21 public tax-supported libraries in 2002. Each year libraries in the state circulate an average of 6.2 books for every resident. The Wilmington Institute Library, which dates from the 18th century, is the oldest library in Delaware. The largest library in the state is the University of Delaware’s library, with about 2.4 million volumes, including 2,000 volumes on the public and private life of Abraham Lincoln. Outstanding libraries devoted to the history of Delaware include the Delaware Public Archives, in Dover, and the library of the Historical Society of Delaware, in Wilmington. The Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, in Greenville, has a noted collection on American economic history.
Located on the former country estate of Henry Francis du Pont, the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library in Winterthur has exhibits of furniture and household goods of the period from 1640 to 1840. The museum is open to the public for guided tours. Other important museums include the museum of the Historical Society and the Delaware Art Museum, both in Wilmington; the Delaware State Museums, in Dover; and the Delaware Museum of Natural History, in Wilmington. The Hagley Museum, in Wilmington, is a museum of American industrial history. The Zwaanendael Museum, in Lewes, was built by the state in 1931 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Dutch settlement in 1631.
It is believed that the first newspaper in the state was the Wilmington Courant, which was published for six months in 1762. The oldest continuously published newspaper is the Delaware Gazette, which continues today as the Wilmington News Journal. One of Delaware’s most notable publications was the former weekly newspaper entitled The Blue Hen’s Chicken. It was published and edited in the mid-19th century by Francis Vincent, who used the newspaper to advocate programs of civil rights, labor reform, and public service. There are 2 daily newspapers published in the state. The Wilmington News Journal, which is the state’s largest newspaper in circulation, has daily statewide circulation. The Delaware State News is published daily in Dover.
Delaware has 9 AM and 12 FM radio stations. Several cable television systems operate in the state, and WHYY, a publicly supported educational television station, maintains studios in Wilmington and Philadelphia. The state’s first radio station, WDEL, in Wilmington, began operations in 1922.
|E||Music and Theater|
Wilmington supports a symphony orchestra and a professional theater. The Grand Opera House, in Wilmington, is home to OperaDelaware and presents a year-round program of classical concerts and dance. Community theater groups are also maintained in Newark, Dover, and elsewhere.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Although it is a small state, Delaware has numerous recreational facilities and is noted for its historic sites and buildings. Facilities for swimming, boating, and other water sports are located at numerous places along the coast, and camping, hiking, and picnicking are popular pastimes in the state parks and forests. There are no national parks or national forests.
|A||State Parks and Forests|
Among Delaware’s 13 state parks is Fort Delaware State Park, on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River and accessible by boat from Delaware City. The huge granite fort was a Union stronghold during the Civil War. Bellevue State Park, in Wilmington, once was the estate of the du Pont family and features the Bellevue mansion. Also near Wilmington is Brandywine Creek, with its towering tulip trees, rolling hills, and wildflower meadows framed by gray stone walls. Cape Henlopen State Park, east of Lewes on the Atlantic shore, includes a fishing pier stretching into Delaware Bay and the Seaside Nature Center, popular with bird-watchers. Delaware Seashore State Park, south of Dewey Beach, includes 10 km (6 mi) of ocean and bay shoreline. Trap Pond State Park, east of Laurel, encompasses part of the Great Cypress Swamp that is home to the unique bald cypress trees.
There are several state forests. Among them are Blackbird State Forest, Ellendale State Forest, and Owens Tract and Red Lion Tract state forests. Redden State Forest in southern Delaware is the largest. Many regions of the state have been set aside as wildlife preserves, fishing sites, and public beaches. Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is located around Broadkill Beach, while near Dover is Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
|B||Other Places to Visit|
Fort Christina, in Wilmington, marks the site where Swedish pioneers landed in 1638 to establish the first permanent European settlement in Delaware. The John Dickinson Plantation, built in 1740, was once the home of the American patriot John Dickinson. It is one of several early American buildings in the historic Dover area. The former state capitol in Dover, dating from about 1790, is one of the oldest capitols in the country. The structure faces the historic Green, which appears today almost as it did in 1717, the year Dover and the Green were laid out. The historic Court House in New Castle, which dates from the early 1730s, is one of the oldest existing public buildings in the United States. Its cupola served as the focus from which surveyors drew the arc forming Delaware’s northern border. The Amstel House Museum depicts 18th-century life in New Castle. Another popular New Castle attraction is the George Read II House, a classic Federal style mansion. The De Vries Monument near Lewes marks the approximate site of the former Zwaanendael (Swanendael), Delaware’s short-lived first community, which was founded in 1631.
Among Delaware’s many historic churches is Old Swedes Church and Hendrickson House Museum, in Wilmington, which has been in use since its completion in 1698. Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica, Christ Episcopal Church near Laurel, and Old Drawyers’ Presbyterian Church near Odessa were built between 1770 and 1780. Immanuel Episcopal Church in New Castle was built early in the 18th century, as was the recently restored Presbyterian church there. Prince George’s Chapel in Dagsboro was built in 1757. Fenwick Island Lighthouse, which began operation in 1859, was decommissioned in 1978 and now is operated by the state as an attraction. The Wilmington and Western Railroad operates a steam train through the scenic Red Clay Valley.
Colors abound at the Great Delaware Kite Festival at Cape Henlopen, held in late April. Early in May many historic private homes in Dover are opened to the public during Old Dover Days. The Delaware State Fair, held in July in Harrington, is a true agricultural fair, featuring a mixture of livestock and farm equipment. A Day in Old Newcastle is held annually in May. Nanticoke Pow Wow draws eastern Native Americans to the September festival which includes ceremonial dances, storytelling, and Native American food and crafts. The Delaware Decoy Festival and Carving Championship, held in Odessa in October, focuses on the skill of crafting decoys used in duck hunting. Christmas parades are held in several communities in early December, and a candlelight tour of historic homes is held in New Castle.
The present constitution of Delaware, which was adopted in 1897, has been amended many times. It is the fourth constitution in the history of the state. The first constitution, adopted in 1776, created “The Delaware State” with a president as chief executive. It was replaced in 1792 by a constitution that established the basic form of the present state government. The third constitution, adopted in 1831, made a number of changes in the judiciary. In each case the constitution was written by a constitutional convention and put into effect without being submitted to a popular vote. In order to become law, a proposed amendment must receive a two-thirds vote of approval from each house of the state legislature in two successive sessions, with an election intervening.
The chief executive of the state is the governor, who is elected for a term of four years and may serve only two terms. Other executive officers are the lieutenant governor, attorney general, insurance commissioner, auditor of accounts, and treasurer, who are elected to serve four-year terms. The governor appoints the secretary of state, various commissioners and judges, and some of the administrative officers.
The governor has the power to veto proposed legislation. A three-fifths majority vote in each house of the state legislature is required to override the governor’s veto.
The state legislature, called the General Assembly, meets annually at Dover. It consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The senate has 21 members, who are elected for four-year terms, and the house of representatives has 41 members, who are elected for two-year terms.
The state judicial system includes a supreme court, a superior court, and a court of chancery. The supreme court is made up of a chief justice and four associate justices. The justices and all state judges are appointed by the governor, with the consent of the senate, for 12-year terms. Lower courts include a court of common pleas in each county in the state, as well as family courts, municipal courts, and magistrates’ courts.
Delaware is divided into three counties: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. New Castle County is administered by an elected council headed by an elected president. Sussex County is administered by an elected council, with one council member serving as president. Kent County is administered by an elected board of commissioners called the levy court. The counties are subdivided into hundreds, which are old English political subdivisions with no government of their own and little significance.
Most of the cities and towns in Delaware, including Wilmington, have the mayor and council form of municipal government. Some are governed by a council and manager.
Delaware elects one representative and two senators to the Congress of the United States. In presidential elections the state has three electoral votes.
Before the arrival of the first European settlers, the Delaware River valley was inhabited by a group of Native Americans who spoke a language of the Algonquian linguistic stock. They called themselves the Lenni Lenape, which means “original people” or “real people,” and they were accorded the title “grandfathers” by other Native American groups to acknowledge their long occupation of the valley. They lived by hunting, fishing, and farming; their chief crops were corn, beans, and squash.
The Lenni Lenape, who came to be known as the Delaware to the European settlers, were organized in a confederacy of three large groups that ranged from southern New York state to northern Delaware. The southernmost group occupied the northern part of what is now Delaware. The Nanticoke people, who were related to the Delaware, lived in southwestern Delaware along the Nanticoke River. Occasionally the Minqua, a warlike people who spoke an Iroquoian language, came from the interior of Pennsylvania to trade furs along the Delaware River.
|B||The 17th Century|
|B1||Dutch Exploration and Settlement|
The first European explorations in the area were by agents of The Netherlands, whose people are called the Dutch, and England. Henry Hudson, a navigator from England who was employed by the Dutch East India Company to find the fabled Northwest Passage through North America to the Pacific Ocean, is credited with discovering Delaware Bay in 1609. However, he did not explore it. The following year, Captain Samuel Argall, an English explorer, gave the name Cape De la Warr to a point of land on the western shore in honor of Thomas West, 3rd Baron De la Warr, the governor of the English colony of Virginia.
Between 1614 and 1620 several Dutch ships explored the Delaware River. In 1624 another company, the Dutch West India Company, set up the colony of Nieuw Nederland (New Netherland), which claimed the Delaware Valley, the Hudson River Valley, and the land between them. The company encouraged business people to buy land from the Native American inhabitants, which they could then rule as patroons, or manorial lords, provided they brought in settlers. A group of merchants bought the land between Bombay Hook and Cape Henlopen and in 1631 built Swanendael, the first European settlement in Delaware, on the site of present-day Lewes. Within a year the settlement was destroyed, and the settlers were killed by Native Americans. This was the only such attack ever made on white settlers in Delaware, and it is uncertain which Native American people was responsible.
The Dutch West India Company was more interested in trade than in colonization. However, several of its members offered their services to the kingdom of Sweden as colonizers. One of them, Peter Minuit, the former director-general of New Netherland, led the Swedish expedition that established the first permanent settlement in Delaware. In March 1638 the expedition built a fortified trading post on the site of present-day Wilmington. It was named Fort Christina in honor of the queen of Sweden. Minuit secured a deed from the Native Americans for the land extending north from Bombay Hook to the Schuylkill River, which flows into the Delaware River at what is now Philadelphia. The territory was named New Sweden. Over the next 17 years more than a dozen expeditions arrived in New Sweden, bringing Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch settlers, as well as livestock, grain, and tools. Additional land was bought on both sides of the Delaware River. During the administration of Governor Johan Björnsson Printz (1643-1653), new forts, houses, mills, and wharves were built, tobacco was planted, and trade with the Native Americans was encouraged.
The Dutch West India Company still claimed the Delaware area and in 1651 attempted to gain control of it. Under the leadership of Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherland, the Dutch built Fort Casimir on the site of present-day New Castle. The Swedes captured the fort in 1654, but the following year, Stuyvesant returned to New Sweden in greater force and seized the entire territory. Although many Swedes remained in Delaware, Swedish rule in North America was at an end.
In 1656 the Dutch West India Company, in financial difficulties, sold Fort Casimir and the land between the Christina River and Bombay Hook to the city of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. A settlement named New Amstel grew up at Fort Casimir and was made the capital of the area. By 1663 Amsterdam had acquired all the land from Delaware Bay to the Schuylkill River.
The English, who competed with the Dutch for trade and colonies in North America, fought a series of three wars with them between 1652 and 1674. In 1664 the English captured all of New Netherland and the Dutch possessions in the Delaware Valley. This began the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which concluded in 1667 with the English in possession. Delaware was annexed by the English duke of York and for 18 years was governed as part of his colony of New York (which had been New Netherland). The Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish settlers who pledged allegiance to the English king were allowed to keep their lands and property. Settlers from England and from the English colonies of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York settled in Delaware, and the colony grew rapidly.
The Dutch recaptured their former territory in 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. However, under the terms of the peace treaty they were forced to return it to England.
|B4||Delaware and William Penn|
In 1682 William Penn, the founder of the adjoining Pennsylvania colony, petitioned for a direct outlet to the ocean. The duke of York deeded to Penn all the land within a radius of 19 km (12 mi) of New Castle and south to Cape Henlopen. The area included most of what is now Delaware. The transfer was bitterly contested by Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, who also claimed the land along the Delaware River for his Maryland colony. An English court denied Lord Baltimore’s claim, but the dispute over the Maryland-Delaware boundary was not finally settled until 1769.
In December 1682 the three Delaware counties, which Penn called the Lower Counties, were formally united with Pennsylvania. They were governed by a general assembly. Delaware and Pennsylvania each had the same number of representatives to the assembly.
Penn concluded a peace treaty that year with the Delaware nation. There were no further clashes between the Delaware and the whites until the French and Indian War (1754-1763), when some of the Delaware sided with France, some sided with Great Britain (a union of three countries headed by England), and some stayed neutral. By that time, however, the Delaware were moving west ahead of white settlement, and most of them lived in Ohio. Today they live in widely scattered groups in Oklahoma and Ontario, Canada. A small remnant of the Nanticoke still lives in Warwick, Sussex County, where they maintain a community center.
|B5||Separation from Pennsylvania|
The people of Delaware resented being controlled by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, the religious body that dominated Philadelphia, and they feared the rapid economic growth of Pennsylvania. They also resented Penn’s failure to provide sufficient protection against raids by Lord Baltimore’s agents and by pirates who terrorized the settlements along the shore. Finally, quarrels over representation of the lower counties led to the establishment of a separate assembly for Delaware. It held its first meeting in New Castle in 1704. From that time the Delaware assembly made the laws for the three counties, which became in effect a separate colony under the governor of Pennsylvania. Through their own assembly the people of Delaware provided for the development of their colony.
|C||The 18th Century|
The three counties prospered during the 18th century. Farming was the main occupation, but many people also engaged in fishing and in small manufacturing enterprises such as the making of barrels and household goods. Flour mills, leather tanneries, and other small plants were established in northern Delaware along streams that provided abundant waterpower. Shipbuilding flourished at Wilmington and in many other towns. Grain, lumber, dairy products, and other foodstuffs were exported to the Southern colonies, the West Indies, and Europe.
In 1774 the Delaware assembly sent its members George Read, Caesar Rodney, and Thomas McKean, three of the colony’s most prominent citizens, as delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. This was a conference of 12 of the British North American colonies to discuss means of resisting the so-called Intolerable Acts, a set of punitive measures applied against the colonies by Great Britain. The same delegates were sent to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, which 13 colonies attended. McKean and Read were present at the Continental Congress in July 1776, when that body was asked to vote on the Declaration of Independence, severing the 13 colonies’ relation with Great Britain. Read opposed the declaration, believing there was not yet enough popular support for independence. Both McKean and Rodney supported it, but Rodney was in Delaware at the time. Summoned by a messenger from McKean, Rodney rode all night on horseback, 129 km (80 mi) through lightning and rain, from Dover to Philadelphia to break the tie between Read and McKean and cast Delaware’s vote in favor of independence. Eventually Read came to agree, and all three Delaware delegates signed the declaration.
In the same year delegates from the three Delaware counties convened at New Castle to organize a state government. Delaware, which had been an unofficial name along with Lower Counties or The Three Counties, was made official. A constitution was adopted, and John McKinly was elected Delaware’s first president, as the governor was then called. He took office in 1777. Between 1777 and 1793, when Joshua Clayton became the state’s first governor under a new constitution, Delaware had ten presidents.
Many from Delaware enlisted for military service against the British in the American Revolution (1775-1783), and the Delaware regiment had an excellent reputation. Only one skirmish of that war was fought on Delaware soil; it occurred in September 1777 at Cooch’s Bridge, near the village of Newark. A detachment of soldiers from the Continental Army of General George Washington, which was camped near Wilmington, clashed with advance units of a British force advancing northeast from Maryland to Philadelphia. The British later defeated Washington’s troops on September 11 at the Battle of the Brandywine, at Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the Delaware border. British forces then crossed into Delaware and made a surprise raid on Wilmington, where they captured President McKinly.
The British left Wilmington after a month, but a fleet of British warships controlled the coast until June 1778, keeping the river open to British shipping. During this time the capital was moved from New Castle to Dover because it was thought safer to be out of range of the British naval cannon. In McKinly’s absence, McKean and then Read served as acting presidents, and then Rodney was elected to succeed McKinly in 1778. Even after the British fleet left in 1778, one warship remained on guard at Cape Henlopen and British sympathizers, protected by it, raided Delaware farms.
|C3||After the Revolution|
When the revolution had been won, Delaware’s representatives actively supported the movement for a strong national government for the United States. In 1786, Delaware was one of five states represented at the Annapolis Convention, which recommended to Congress that another meeting of all the states be called to strengthen the federal charter, the Articles of Confederation. Congress responded by calling the Constitutional Convention, held the next year at Philadelphia; Delaware sent a delegation of five, led by John Dickinson and George Read. Dickinson was instrumental in framing the Constitution of the United States and, when it was submitted to the states for approval, he wrote a series of newspaper articles under the pen name Fabius, in which he forcefully urged its adoption. Delaware speedily called a state convention at Dover in December 1787 and voted unanimously for adoption. Delaware led all the other states in adopting the Constitution, thereby earning its nickname, the First State.
|C4||Early Years of Statehood|
In 1790, when the first federal census was taken, Delaware had a total population of 59,096, including almost 4,000 free blacks and 9,000 black slaves. At that time the state’s population was evenly distributed among the three counties. The state was predominantly agricultural, but industry was already developing in the north, particularly in the Wilmington area. In the 1790s, following the invention of new flour milling machinery by Delawarean Oliver Evans, the mills along Brandywine Creek near Wilmington were the country’s leading source of flour. In 1795, Delaware’s first cotton mill was established near Wilmington, and in 1802, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, a French immigrant, established a gunpowder mill. His firm, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, supplied nearly all the military explosives used by the United States in its wars and evolved into one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturing firms.
|D||The 19th Century|
In the early 19th century, trade was encouraged by the development of new transportation links. Toll roads, or turnpikes, were built to connect farming areas to the commercial town of Wilmington. Steamboats began to replace sailing ships on the Delaware River in the 1810s, and the completion in 1829 of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, between Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay, gave an additional stimulus to shipping. Delaware’s first steam-driven railroad went into operation in 1832. The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, which was completed in 1838, gave the state its first through rail service. Except for a brief period before and during the War of 1812, when British ships threatened the Delaware shore, oceangoing vessels plied regularly between port towns along the Delaware River, principally Wilmington and New Castle, and the ports of other coastal states, as well as ports in Europe and the West Indies.
A second constitution, adopted in 1792, established Delaware’s basic framework of government. It provided for a governor to be elected by popular vote, although for many years voting was restricted to men who were free, white, and had paid their taxes. Representation in the state legislature was apportioned equally among the three counties. However, New Castle County grew far more rapidly than the two southern counties. By the middle of the 19th century about 45 percent of the state’s total population of more than 91,000 lived in New Castle County, with one-third of those concentrated in the Wilmington area. A new state constitution was adopted in 1831, but the changes it made affected principally the judiciary and not the legislature. Despite the shift in the balance of population, the new document made no change in the representation formula. The southern counties dominated both houses of the legislature.
In the years between the revolution and the War of 1812 the dominant political party in Delaware was the Federalist Party, which was pro-British and supported a highly centralized form of national government. Even after the War of 1812, in which the British invaded the United States, the party kept its strength in Delaware although it was defeated in almost every other state. Indeed, Delaware was the last Federalist state. In the 1820s most Delaware voters turned to the new National Republican Party, which adopted many Federalist policies, including a protective tariff and support of a strong national government. In the 1830s and 1840s most Delawareans backed the Whig Party, which evolved from the National Republicans. However, when the Whig Party was split by reform issues such as abolition and prohibition, the majority of Delaware voters, along with most Southern Whigs, switched their support to the Democratic Party.
|D3||The Civil War|
Slavery was one of the most important issues in national politics in the first half of the 19th century. Politicians of the Northern states pressed to end it, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Politicians of the cotton-growing Southern states felt that slavery was necessary to their agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the country economically. Many in the influential slaveholding class in the South favored secession from the federal Ubetween Bombay Hook and Capnion and formation of a separate Southern nation.
By the 1850s the South had become a minority section, and its leaders viewed the actions of Congress, which they no longer controlled, with growing concern. The North demanded for its industrial growth a protective tariff, federal subsidies for shipping and internal improvements, and a sound banking and currency system. The West looked to Congress for free homesteads and federal aid for its roads and waterways. The South, however, regarded such measures as discriminatory, favoring Northern commercial interests, and it found intolerable the rise of antislavery agitation in the North.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. The state of South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Other slavery states followed in quick succession, and in February 1861 they formed a confederacy, the Confederate States of America.
Delaware was a slaveholding border state with many Confederate sympathizers; Lincoln did not carry the state in 1860. However, Delaware had more economic ties with the North than with the South; by 1860 fewer than 2000 of the almost 22,000 blacks in the state were slaves, and most Delawareans opposed the extension of slavery. There was never any movement in Delaware to secede from the Union, and it remained loyal during the American Civil War (1861-1865) that followed the secessions.
More than 13,000 Delawareans, nearly one-tenth of the state’s population, served in the Union Army, and several hundred fought for the Confederacy. Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, was garrisoned by Union Army soldiers and served as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war.
In 1861 Lincoln proposed that Delaware’s slaves be freed and the owners compensated. That proposal failed, partly because of party politics on the part of the Delaware Democrats, and in 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution freed the slaves with no compensation. The Democrats controlled the legislature throughout the war and repeatedly railed at the Republicans as the party that had started the war and was going to make blacks equal to whites. In the 1864 presidential election Lincoln again failed to carry Delaware, one of only three states that preferred his opponent, General George B. McClellan.
|D4||After the Civil War|
In the years after the war the Democratic Party, consistently voted into office by the rural population of Kent and Sussex counties, won nearly every major election in Delaware and remained in power until the 1890s. It proclaimed itself the “white man’s party,” made it difficult for blacks to vote, and aligned itself with the Southern bloc of the party (the so-called Solid South) in Congress. Meanwhile, industry expanded rapidly in the northern part of the state, especially in the Wilmington area, which attracted immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Russia. Wilmington consistently voted Republican.
In 1897 the state’s present constitution was adopted. It provided for the revision of the legislative and judicial systems, including reapportionment of the state legislature. Under the terms of the new constitution, New Castle County was given increased representation in the legislature, but the combined vote of the other two counties continued to control the legislature, and Wilmington’s representation actually decreased.
Meanwhile the Republican Party in Delaware was weakened by a struggle between supporters and opponents of John Edward O’Sullivan Addicks. A wealthy financier, Addicks campaigned as a candidate for the United States Senate for nearly two decades. He was never elected, but on several occasions his supporters caused a deadlock in the election of a senator. On one occasion the deadlock caused Delaware to be without a U.S. senator for two years, 1901 to 1903. After 1905, however, the Republican Party took the lead in state politics, supported by the wealthy du Pont family, and retained control of the government until 1936.
|E||The 20th Century|
|E1||Early Years of the Century|
During the governorship of John G. Townsend, Jr., a Republican who served from 1917 to 1921, public education was greatly improved through large gifts from industrialist Pierre S. du Pont, who built modern schools throughout the state. Pierre’s cousins Thomas Coleman du Pont (known as “T. Coleman”) and Alfred I. du Pont also made substantial donations to the state. T. Coleman du Pont built a modern highway the length of the state between 1911 and 1924, while Alfred promoted the creation of the state’s first welfare home, which was opened in 1933 to replace antiquated county facilities. A state income tax law was passed to help finance the state’s school system.
The industrial boom of World War I (1914-1918) spurred the growth of the Wilmington area. By 1920 the state’s urban population exceeded its rural population for the first time. Like the rest of the country, Delaware suffered great economic hardship during the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s. Many workers were unemployed. However, no large banks failed in Delaware, and the diversification of industry within the state encouraged a fairly rapid economic recovery. During the depression, Delaware’s voters swung toward the Democrats because of their efforts to revitalize the economy. In the 1936 elections the Democrats carried the state for the president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and also for the offices of governor, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, and many other positions.
During World War II (1939-1945), Delaware produced ships, airplanes, motor vehicles, iron and steel, chemicals, foodstuffs, and other goods for the Allied war effort. Agriculture and industry in the state prospered.
|E2||After World War II|
After the war the state’s industrial output continued to increase, although shipbuilding and some other wartime industries declined in importance. New chemical research centers were developed, and in 1956 a modern mechanized oil refinery began production near Delaware City. Wilmington continued to grow as an industrial center, and new industries were also established in smaller cities throughout the state, especially around Wilmington and Dover. In addition, Kent County benefited economically from the development of Dover Air Force Base, and Sussex County benefited from the improvement and expansion of its resort facilities and from the development of an extensive and lucrative poultry industry that supplied the East Coast. Commerce expanded with the completion of the Delaware Memorial Bridge to New Jersey in 1951.
During the 1950s, Delaware’s population growth made it one of the fastest growing states on the eastern seaboard. Wilmington itself lost population, but its suburbs grew and spread into adjoining states. Population growth remained rapid in the 1960s but slowed drastically in the 1970s.
|E3||Recent Political Developments|
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats commanded a reliable majority of voters in Delaware after the 1930s. In national presidential elections the Democratic and Republican candidates have carried Delaware about equally. In state elections, the Democrats have frequently won control of both houses of the legislature. The governorship has shifted between the two parties, and few governors have been reelected.
During the early 1960s there were continued demands for reapportionment of the legislature. New Castle County wanted greater representation on the basis of its greatly increased population. After the courts in the case of Sincock v. Roman, 1962, decided that the existing apportionment was in conflict with the U.S. Constitution, the general assembly in 1964 passed a new and more equitable law. This too was successfully challenged in court, leading to another apportionment law in 1968. Under this new law, New Castle County was assigned about two-thirds of the state legislators, with the suburbs of Wilmington showing the greatest gain.
Race relations have been a great concern in Delaware. The state’s public schools were segregated by race under the constitution of 1897 and remained so until after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down racial segregation in its 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education (see Segregation in the United States). Two of the cases that were merged in that historic decision, Bulah v. Gebhart and Belton v. Gebhart, involved Delaware plaintiffs. Integration proceeded smoothly in most parts of the state except Milford, where diehard segregationists succeeded in having the public schools shut down for a year. De facto segregation—racial imbalance of schools caused by residence patterns—continued to be a problem into the 1970s and beyond. In 1978 a federal court decree affecting Wilmington and its surrounding suburbs (Evans v. Buchanan) mandated the busing of children to achieve racial balance in the schools. In 1995 a federal judge ended mandatory busing when it was found that the goals of integration had been achieved.
Segregated housing was also practiced throughout the state until the federal government passed legislation to end it in 1968. In that year Wilmington, like many other American cities, experienced rioting following the assassination of the Martin Luther King, Jr. The governor, Charles L. Terry, Jr., called out the National Guard to keep order and, over the protests of the city’s mayor, kept it on patrol until his successor took office in January 1969.
|E5||Political and Economic Developments|
Republican Governor Russell W. Peterson, Jr. (1969-1973), reorganized the executive branch of state government during his term. Its former collection of nearly 100 semi-independent commissions was replaced by ten executive departments, each directed by a cabinet secretary appointed by the governor with legislative consent. Also in that year, the governor persuaded the legislature to adopt a Coastal Zone Act designed to prevent the environmental degradation of Delaware’s extensive bay, river, and ocean coastline by new industry or refineries.
In the 1970s northern Delaware’s previously strong economic development slowed. The cost of maintaining the state’s education, transportation, and welfare programs threatened to overwhelm the tax base and to drive some industries from the state. In response to this challenge, Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV reduced state spending and encouraged the legislature to adopt the Financial Center Development Act of 1981. By relaxing regulations on interest rates that banks may charge their customers, the act attracted more than a dozen out-of-state banks to locate their credit card operations in the First State. The banks’ large new buildings now dominate Wilmington, where they employ thousands of workers.
In the mid-1980s Delaware’s personal income tax rates were reduced four times in four years. Yet government revenues and employment continued to grow and construction boomed as more businesses and credit-card operations flocked to the state. The banks maintained high employment in the state in spite of downsizing (shrinking of the workforce), which by the early 1990s had become commonplace among the state’s mature chemical corporations. Another source of economic health in Delaware is its legal profession. Delaware is the corporate home of hundreds of major and minor corporations that take advantage of Delaware’s unrestrictive incorporation law and its state and federal courts, which are highly experienced in corporate law. In 1988, when many American businesses faced hostile corporate takeovers, the legislature enacted a law that made Delaware even more attractive. The law made it difficult to accomplish such a takeover of a Delaware corporation, because the would-be acquirer must capture 85 percent of the corporation’s stock in a single transaction or wait three years before proceeding.
Delaware achieved a healthy economy in the 1990s. Democratic governor Thomas Carper, who served from 1993 to 2001, took an active approach to creating and preserving jobs. He was succeeded by Democrat Ruth Ann Minner, who became Delaware’s first female governor.